When we think of solar power we think of an energy source that is free and sustainable, but aside from the obvious drawbacks, such as price and the inability to harness solar energy at night, there are some significant issues that may need to be addressed. Solar energy has made significant strides, yet when we think of solar power, cost usually plays a major role. Currently 49 percent of all the electrical power in the United States is generated by coal, yet solar electricity can be delivered at the same or less cost.
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Traditional flat panel systems are being replaced by thin-film solar material which can decrease overall cost by 20 percent. This thin film has been an innovation breakthrough in the energy industry and one of the major reasons that solar power will overtake coal. Another major concern is the idea that the sun does not shine at night, so how can solar energy be harnessed. MIT scientists have developed a method of storing solar power in a fuel cell for later use. They can do this by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen and storing it, while using solar panels during the day to power homes. In the evening, the hydrogen and oxygen can be combined to create energy while the solar panels are inactive. Another concern is the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced with the consumption of coal. Solar power electricity produces no greenhouse gases or emissions which makes it an energy source of choice. Over a year, one solar power system could save the same amount of carbon dioxide as one car can produce during a year.
Currently, half of the United States uses coal due to its abundance and cheap price. Yet with increased demand, especially in developing economies such as China and India, coal prices continue to rise resulting in solar power becoming cost competitive with coal generated electricity. Shifting to solar power will result in lower electric bills,
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