Every fact about the Sun is hard for most of us to take in. The numbers are so huge it makes us and our Earth seem very small and insignificant. When we feel the heat of the Sun on our face, it is hard to believe that it has come from 150 million km away. Just a tiny fraction of the Sun’s energy hits the Earth, yet every minute enough energy arrives to meet our demands for a whole year if only we could harness it properly.
Most of the energy we use is sunshine, but only a part of it is present-day sunshine. The rest is what I like to call “Pre-historic sunshine” – sunshine that was collected by plants and marine organisms hundreds of million years ago through the process of photosynthesis and stored in a concentrated and convenient form as fossil fuels.
It has been extremely hard for anyone collecting present-day solar energy to compete with previously collected solar energy that flows out of the ground in the form of oil and gas in huge volumes at very low cost. However, one thing we can be sure about is that fossil fuels are finite and one day supply will not match demand. When that happens there will be chaos as nations, companies and people fight over remaining reserves. We therefore need to reduce our dependence now before that happens using incentives to encourage the efficient collection of solar energy which should be with us for the next few billion years. If we do not, we will be at Peak Food time. Our oil and gas dependent food system will fail and the Earth’s population will collapse.
There is no doubt that there is more then enough current solar energy . Obviously we can’t collect it all but the question is can we collect enough to meet our needs at a price that will not ruin us? Governments tinker with taxation of fossil fuels and subsidies for renewables, but to make a real difference to carbon emissions and at the same time slow fossil fuel depletion, international agreements will be needed.
The main methods of collecting solar energy are through exploiting the weather systems driven by the sun, using man made collecting panels or cells and most important of all, using the original solar panel, the plant leaf to collect energy in the form of both food and fuel.