Is Solar Energy Renewable
The current era is one in which more and more people are
becoming well aware of the need for alternative approaches to almost everything. We can no longer think that
it is okay to buy a massive and “gas guzzling” vehicle. We can also no longer build giant homes that are not
energy efficient or earth friendly. Even our shopping habits have to adjust to the need for eco-awareness and
include reusable bags and recycled goods as often as possible.
Naturally, one of the biggest areas of awareness is in the use
of energy for home electrical, heating and cooling, and hot water supplies. Because of this growing awareness
we can find all kinds of “renewable” energy sources that include everything from small windmills to
geothermal heating and cooling. One of the most readily accessible types of “alternate energy” is solar
A Look at Solar Energy
Many people are a bit confused by the concept of “renewable” energy, and it is important to ensure that it is
clearly understood before getting into a discussion about solar energy.
Firstly, if a resource is to be considered “renewable” it must not be finite or available as a limited quantity or
supply. For example, when we talk about geothermal energy, we know that it comes to us around the clock from the
earth beneath our feet. When we discuss solar energy, we know that it comes from the sun, but it is not available
on a 24-hour basis because the sun sets.
Does this mean it is nonrenewable? No, it means that we cannot rely on it around the clock in the same ways that we
can rely on wind, water, and geothermal. The interesting thing is that scientists, engineers, and others are
working to find ways to harvest solar energy and to put it to work throughout the evening hours after
A Good Example
Currently there are plans for a massive solar energy station to be built in the state of Arizona. The plans do not
include the hundreds of mirrors and the giant “collector” that is common to most solar energy plants. Instead, this
system is going to use a large “canopy” over a large canyon like structure. This will allow the sun to heat the
earth around the base of the tower, and to send warm air up inside of the tower where it turns massive turbines and
After dark, the accumulated heat in the earth will continue to power the massive turbines and to generate plenty of
power until the sun rises again the next day. This means a few things – first it means that solar energy systems
are beginning to be built in a way that is familiar to those who understand geothermal systems, and secondly it
demonstrates that solar energy is always going to be quite limited.
Consider that any solar plant is always going to have to rely on the presence of the sun, but this is not a
guaranteed issue. Thus, solar is a renewable energy, but it is one that is far more “conditional” than
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