A Greener World

3 comments

Photovolt

As some of the readers may know from my profile, I majored in Electrical Engineering. Even though I have a passion for business, I have a much greater passion for science. Some say that the only difference between a scientist and an engineer is that engineers do the research and design the product, where scientist only do research.

In this article, I will talk about “green energy”, in other words Solar Power.

I believe that in the future the people and the planet will greatly benefit from solar energy. The idea has been around for a long time but it was a group of scientist (among them Einstein) who discovered how to mimic the photosynthesis of plants by creating a photovoltaic cell. It is a very simple concept which is composed of what is known as a semiconductor. A semiconductor can be simply explained as a device which electrons travel from one side to the protons on the other causing a photovoltaic effect. This effect refers to photons of light exciting electrons and then, allows them to act as charge carriers for an electric current. This is a very, very simplified version, but there are different types of semiconductors which perform different tasks under certain conditions and materials.

How_It_WorksSemiconductors are the sole reason you are playing around with a smartphone, laptop or any electronic gadget for that matter, because they allow us to create complex electronics. After writing two paragraphs on explaining a semiconductor in-depth and how it works, I figured that by the first few sentences, I would lose you as a reader.

Anyways, if you put lots of these photovoltaic cells together, you get solar panels which are a large enough device able to create a large enough voltage to be useful to us. Because this technology is still new, scientists and engineers are working really hard to create more efficient ones. Currently, solar panels are around 21% efficient meaning that only 21% of the light that hits the solar cell is converted to electricity however there are devices in labs which go up to 40%. But engineers have to figure out how to create those results outside of the lab.

What does 21% efficiency mean?
It means that to get enough energy from the sun in order to power your house, you need a large area of solar panels. The higher the efficiency the less solar panels you need. Over time, this problem will be solved, and I believe we will see the day where solar panels are over 70% efficient and you won’t need as many of them to power your house.

Yes, we can try and “tighten our belts” by using less electricity, but I’m not the type of person that believes we should live within our means. If we lived within our means, we would still be riding horses, we wouldn’t be flying airplanes to go to Cancun for spring break, or raging to electronic music, techno or even dub-step.

Should I wait for better solar panels?
No, buying solar panels not only reduces your electric bill, but also qualifies you for state and federal tax incentives. This will reduce the cost of the project tremendously. It will also benefit the manufacturer because they will notice a greater need, and provide a greater supply. This will motivate other companies to begin producing solar panels and to obtain a competitive edge, they will make them more efficient. The interests of the few, will benefit the whole. Welcome to Capitalism!

What’s the next step?
The solution is out there, you may discover the formula to a more efficient solar cell or there is a guy/girl that is looking outside the window right now saying that s/he wants to study science. If you aren’t in the field of science, you should encourage youngsters to study science, not because it is easy or there will be lots of money involved but simply because they will change the world. They will be the reason for a greener planet. They will also make lots of money.

3 comments on “A Greener World”

  1. Hah! I think you are confusing “living within your means” with living frugally. Those are two different constructs. Living within your means just means not spending more money than you have – but those who started creating modern technological leaps got backers – people with a lot more money than they had. Or they were already independently wealthy and able to play around with their ideas. It’s the difference between Einstein – who was sponsored in his work, and Elon Musk, who is currently just “playing around” with Tesla Motors because he already had a great deal of his own money.

    Anyway, Living within your means doesn’t mean forgoing big dreams. Dreams are priceless.

    1. Hi Beth!

      I do mean ‘living within your means’ because to live this way is to not take risks. Einstein was backed for his research however his reputation was on the line if he didn’t engineer any breakthroughs, he might have lost respect in the scientific community. Elon Musk is also a great example because he started Tesla and SpaceX after he and his friends sold PayPal. Tesla was in danger of bankruptcy a few years ago and he put all of his own money to save the company, now it has a beautiful and very innovative product line.
      Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University because Microsoft was starting to show success. When talking about Microsoft, he has stated that “we were selling Microsoft products before we even had them.” If he and his partners didn’t take risks, do you think Microsoft would exist? Do you think Facebook would exist? If the Wright brothers had a passion for designing a powered and piloted flying machine but were afraid of spending extra money on an idea that has a chance for failure, would have they achieved such great success?
      If you wanted to go to college and couldn’t afford it, would you ‘live within your means’ and not attend? Or would you figure out ways to pay for it with the goal of getting a great return after you graduate?

      I agree 100% that dreams are priceless, at some point if you want the dream to become a reality you have to pay a price.

      -AD

  2. I think I understand your point a little bit better after your clarification about Einstein, Musk, and Gates. I find their innovations and products a lot easier to connect with ‘dreaming big’ than partying in Cancun, and “raging to dubstep.”

    Although I’m certainly a big fan of travel, music, and parties when it comes to dreaming big, I think the biggest dreams worth risking money and reputation for are world-changing – for example designed to further social justice or technological innovation or human knowledge – they are global game changers. These innovations don’t just put a little money in one person’s pocket, they change the way that people think, act, and see the world, (in my opinion) preferably for the positive.

    As to going to college outside your means… it depends I think, very few people can pay out of pocket for school. However, some people end up with pricey educations from big name universities when they could have had similar results from strong state schools. That’s the difference between ending up with 100K in student loans, and 10K is student loans.

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