Solar Energy in Comparison to Fossil Fuels

Solar panels replace fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are formed naturally over a time span of hundreds of millions of years underneath the earth’s surface. Fossil fuels are considered as a non-renewable resource because of the extended period of time they take to regenerate. In today’s world, we are highly dependent upon such non-renewable resources.

More than 80% of our energy is produced by burning fossil fuels. But as we all know, we are using those fossil fuels at an unmatched rate. It is estimated that with the current consumption rate, fossil fuels will run out within the next 100 years. 

Instead of grieving the loss, it’s high time that we should look for alternative energy sources.

The sun is eternal; if we could harness the sun’s free and clean energy, we wouldn’t have to be drilling and using hazardous chemicals for the extraction of fossil fuels. 

Solar energy is still in its early stages, but the awareness of solar being a source of clean and cheap energy is fortunately rising. 

If we talk about cost effectiveness, then fossil fuel production costs less than any other renewable energy generation today.

This is because the fossil fuel energy generation process has developed a lot over the years with the technology and efficiency of the process being much more advanced than from any other type of energy resource. 

It’s one of the main reasons why many organisations have sticked to fossil fuels over other clean sources because of lower costs. Solar energy currently requires a lot of investment to reach where we are with fossil fuels.

Even with the falling costs of renewable energy in the past years, solar energy is still producing less than 5% of the World’s electricity (1.7% to be exact). It seems highly unlikely to replace fossil fuels with any other form of renewable energy in the foreseeable future but there is hope.

If we think about it, energy transitions take decades to happen, as what happened with fossil fuels. Looking at the past, it took 50 years for coal to be an alternative to wood and an additional 50 years for oil to substitute coal. 

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Therefore, we have to give time for solar energy to develop and it’s normal to expect solar energy to go through a similar development and take its time.

However, this development of solar energy replacing fossil fuel is much closer than we think. In 2016, solar energy was the fastest growing source of new energy in the whole world overtaking all the other energy producing sources for the first time.

In late 2019, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) found that “the price of wind and solar power continue to fall, with offshore wind posting the most impressive cost reductions and solar PV and onshore wind now as cheap as any other source of power in California, China and parts of Europe. As a result, fossil fuel power plants are being increasingly marginalized in a number of markets, a trend that is set to continue in years to come.” 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that an additional 35 billion kWh of electricity was generated from small-scale solar photovoltaic systems in 2019. Small-scale systems like the ones you install at home.

Cost Comparison of Different Energy sources in 2019 (Levelized cost of Energy in $US/MWh)

Energy SourceSolar (PV)On-Shore Wind TurbinesCoalGas
Lazard32-3728-413344
BNEF26-5127-47
IRENA (2018)58-8544-56

Here in comparison; you can see that with recent developments how the Levelised cost of renewable energy is getting closer and will soon be beating the cost of fossil fuels!

What is the Levelized cost of electricity generation?

The levelized cost of electricity generation is an estimate of the average cost of electricity generation for a power plant to produce electricity over its lifetime. 

One of the major problems solar panels are facing right now is the efficiency of converting sunlight into electricity is not very high. The most effective panels have an efficiency rating of 22%. The remaining energy is not entering the circuit which is why it is lost. 

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However, recently scientists have discovered a way to double the efficiency of the solar panels. They got the inspiration from the wings of a butterfly (Native to Southeast Asia) which uses sunlight to warm up its wings before flying into the air. This was discovered in a lab and further research is underway which is why it will take some time to commercialise such solar systems.

Image credits: Radwanul Hasan Siddique, KIT/Caltech

Continued research is bringing many improvements in technology, distribution networks and manufacturing processes of solar panels. Consequently, with the increase in demand and bulk production, the price of solar energy is also decreasing. When the balance between the benefits and costs will come in favour of the public and commercial sector, then would the general public be able to choose solar panels over fossil fuels.

Our economies are assuming that Earth will continue to provide and energy from non-renewable resources will stay constant forever which is why we are so dependent on fossil fuels . They’ve even gone ahead to assume that energy derived from fossil fuels will always be easily available and affordable. 

Shifting from these Non renewable fuels would require immense support on our part for the change to be successful. We live in the world of accelerating technology and our attitude towards improved technology has always been positive. Similarly, it’s time for us to look beyond and choose a more sustainable path for our future

One of the great ways to speed up the transition from fossil fuels to solar power is by integrating it in our daily life. 

Following are few suggestions you can make to make the shift from fossils to solar:

  • Consider converting your off-grid cabin or RV by powering it with solar panels instead of diesel fueled generators detrimental to the environment. Here are the Best Solar Chargers for your RV, I have personally used 3 of them and they really do work well!
  • Install solar panels in your home to produce electricity. They are affordable and you could end up with thousands in tax credits which would help you overcome the installation cost.
  • Use and carry your own portable charging station powered by solar panels wherever you go. Your phones, tablets and usb compatible devices can be charged with free solar energy. They are quite cheap and extremely portable. Mine fits in my pocket!
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Read up this guide on Best Solar Powered Backpacks available on the Market (2020)

  • You can even buy solar panel powered cars now, charging the car while you drive it. It is a bit costly for now but as the years pass it would get cheap with the given technology possibilities and competition. It would even reduce the pollution and have close to zero carbon emissions. But you should really consider investing into it to support the scientists working on this day and night!

Today’s modern life is causing many problems such as global warming, floods, rise of sea levels and multiple forms of pollution. These are the costs we are paying in today’s world due to excessive use of natural resources. 

Fossil fuels are considered as a major cause of climate change. 

The quicker we convert to solar energy the better it is; as the health of our environment is depleting rapidly. It is not just about the environment but also about the other species living in it including us. We all depend upon it.

Comment your thoughts. We’d love to know your thoughts on Fossil fuels, Solar energy and other renewable energy sources.

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