• Question: Is solar energy/photovaltaics likely to be the way all household are fueled?

    Asked by shanegalligan to Aggelos, Andrew, Eileen, Naomi, Shane on 20 Nov 2012.
    • Photo: Shane Bergin

      Shane Bergin answered on 20 Nov 2012:

      In the near future we will need to generate far more energy from renewable sources than we do today. This is because we are running out of oil and also because the effects of burning fossil fuels is disastrous. It is my opinion that we will have a combination of renewable sources producing our energy.

      Solar options that could heat water or generate electricity could be placed on our roofs

      Wind farms could be dotted around the country side and off shore generating MASSIVE amounts of energy. this one is really where ireland’s future lies in my opinion. we live on a really windy island! one of the main complaints about wind generation as a source of power is that when the wind doesn’t blow you don’t have power. this has been solved by using wind to pump water into massive resevoirs high above sea level and realsing the water back to sea-level to generate power (because the water will have to fall back to see) in a controlled way

      We could also harness the power of waves that bob up and down far out to see

      Or harness tidal forces of water rushing into bays and inlets around the west coast

      We have lots of potential for alternative energy here in Ireland. What we lack is foresight to get it done !

    • Photo: Eileen Diskin

      Eileen Diskin answered on 20 Nov 2012:

      Hi Shane!

      Awesome question, especially now, that household energy is becoming a major issue – both for the environment and for people’s wallets. I think that solar energy is a great idea, and it can work even here in rainy Ireland (though not as well as other places where its very sunny!). So there are other options, things like wind and wave power – which we’ve got a lot of. And one of the really cool things that people are working on is a household energy system that is smart – and can pick which energy it uses on a given day depending on which there’s the most of that day. So if its really windy (like its been today in Dublin!), it uses wind energy. But if its a very sunny summer day, it uses that one instead!

      In addition to providing fuel for our houses, the sun can do some awesome things actually. I have a friend who is doing research in Kenya, in which she made a system that uses sunshine to purify water for people who don’t have any access to clean drinking water. Its called ‘solar water disinfection’. So I think there is still a lot that we can gain by using the sun.

    • Photo: Aggelos Zacharopoulos

      Aggelos Zacharopoulos answered on 20 Nov 2012:

      photovoltaics (or solar panels) can easily be installed on the external walls or the roof of our homes that face southwards. Their great advantages are that they produce free electricity from the sunlight (even on cloudy days), they make no noise, they do not need maintenance, they work for 25 years or more and are easy to install on our homes. So they are a prime candidate for providing the electricity needed for households even in climates like the Irish (which is classified as Northern Maritime climate). Another renewable energy option for households are the wind turbines, especially for country side homes with plenty of land and no planning permission issues.

      Both solar photovoltaic and wind turbine technologies are well developed at the moment, efficient enough and ready to be used. However if we are to move to 100% electricity from renewable energy we also need to develop efficient energy storage technologies. They allow us to store energy when we have plenty of sun and/or wind. Then the stored energy can be our backup, used to cover our needs when there is little or no sun (e.g. night time) or when the wind is not blowing. At the moment new storage technologies (like super-capacitors) are under development and will soon be available in the market.

      An other option for backup to renewables could be fossil fuels but is definitely not the ideal solution as their prices keep rising and become less available.

    • Photo: Andrew Jackson

      Andrew Jackson answered on 21 Nov 2012:

      I would certainly like to use them more and more. When i manage to buy my own house, i want to put panels on the roof to either generate electricity or heat the water. Also, they are very useful when doing research in very remote places. My phd student recently took a portable solar panel with him to South Africa so he could run his laptop and equipment when out in the remote forests, grasslands and mountains where he was studying vultures.