ENGR0011/0711 Section
L14
FREE, ABUNDANT AND INEXHAUSTIBLE: THE NEW GENERATION OF
SOLAR TECHNOLOGY
Sierra Staats ([email protected])
being used to harvest the sunlight and transform it into
usable energy [1]. In particular, thin-film solar technologies
have captured the attention of innovators all over the world.
This approach to solar technology happens to be safer, faster
and more economical then previous approaches through its
reduction of cost and material waste. But what is it exactly?
Thin-film solar technology is exactly what is seems to be,
sun-capturing cells that are made by depositing a thin layer
of photovoltaic material on an object. It works almost as a
layer of paint; except this paint can harvest the sun’s energy
use it to generate electricity. This aspect makes thin-film
solar technology so much more versatile as it can be added
to a multitude of products. In addition, the newest generation
of thin-film solar technology works at a record high 33.9%
efficiency. This is actually double the efficiency of any solar
technology of the past.
OF INCREASING CONCERN
With the hazard of global warming on the rise and the
petroleum supplies of the world gradually depleting, solar
energy is starting to look like the best alternative for the
United States. If you really think about it, a lacking of lowcarbon power sources appears foolish as a neighboring star
soaks the earth in a tremendous 85,000 terawatts of energy
each year [1]. That amount of energy is actually enough to
provide an entire year of global consumption, ten thousand
times over; it would be ethically incorrect if we did not
harvest the energy [2]. Our only task is to capture it.
Personally, I believe that people need not worry about
running out of energy in the future, and I especially do not
believe that they should be worried about the increasing
expense of a non-renewable energy source. With the
advancements made in the past couple of years in solar
technology and the upholding of classical ethics, the solar
industry is capable of becoming a progressive and
innovative business within the next two decades. The newest
generation of solar energy, thin film photovoltaic energy,
intends to do just that as it opens new doors with its clean
usage and newly engineered high efficiency.
APPLICATIONS
Researchers have said that this solar technology could
ultimately be added to the production of roofing systems.
Conceptually, this means that instead of attaching bulky
solar panels to the top of shingles and plywood, we will be
able to replace the shingles and plywood with this
technology and make a roof out of solar panels [3]. Although
roofing products are a large product of thin-film solar
technology, it is not the only product. There are many
applications for consumer products such as solar powered
calculators, solar watches, battery chargers, car roofs, and
many products in the leisure industry that thin-film solar
technology has helped to advance. Corporations such as
Walmart are getting into the act too by trying to promote
renewable energy, in particular this new technology, by
installing thin-film solar technology to the roofs of twenty to
thirty of their locations in the Arizona, California and
Hawaii areas [4]. The VP of energy at Walmart, Kim
Saylors-Laster, told reporters that, “Developing and
incorporating new renewable energy sources like thin film
reduces energy price risk and align very well with our
commitment to solving business challenges through
technology” [4]. At the completion of their project, the
installed technology is expected to produce one third of all
energy needed for each location, as well as produce up to
22.5 KWh of clean energy each year. Their efforts of using
thin-film solar technology have inspired other companies to
follow suit. These advancements are expected to produce
substantial growth in the solar industry as well as play a
large role in reaching the solar industry’s goal of powering
AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT
Many people believe that the idea of harvesting the sun’s
rays in means of generating energy is a new concept, but this
is surprisingly false. The first attempts of generating solar
energy date all the way back to the sixth century B.C., when
magnifying glasses were used to concentrate the sun’s
energy to burn ants [2]. Over the years, names such as
Becquerel, Einstein, Millikan and many others advanced
solar technology far enough so that the idea could be
developed into what it is today. It was not until the United
States was in the midst of the Industrial Revolution that solar
energy was seriously considered because of all the pollution.
Ever since engineers and scientists have been working side
by side to produce the most efficient way to harness this
energy, and I think they have finally got it.
THE NEWEST GENERATION
Although, solar technology is no longer using a
microscope to focus energy or large photovoltaic panels
spread out upon acres of fields and mounted onto the roofs
of the most enterprising companies. A vast variety of tools
such as thin-film solar, solar thermal and solar heating are
1
Sierra Staats
two million homes by 2015 [5]. As a future engineer I look
forward to ethically making many lives easier through new
technology. I truly believe that thin film solar technology
has the potential to alleviate the fear of our quickly depleting
non-renewable resources as well as reduce the overall cost of
energy in general.
to introduce during the freshman year to let students know
up front what will be expected of them for the rest of their
lives. These vital rules and regulations of the engineering
world are something that must be integrated in the classroom
as well as outside the classroom in order to guarantee
success [8].
The fundamental cannons of the code of ethics include
holding the safety, health and welfare of the public supreme
to all other factors [9]. I believe that thin film solar
technology is mostly if not completely beneficial to the
health, safety and welfare of the public. Primarily, thin film
solar technology produces 100% clean energy. Unlike fossil
fuels, or even some nuclear energy solutions, there are
absolutely no health risks imposed on the public by thin film
solar technology.
Another fundamental cannon to
engineering is the idea of performing services only in the
engineer’s specific area of specialization and experience [9].
This cannon does not really pose a problem for advocates of
thin film solar technology. Only the engineers who are
trained and specialized in this field would be able to make
contributions and distribute it to the general public. The
third fundamental cannon deals with issuing public
statements in a honest and objective manner [9].
Throughout all my research of thin film solar technology I
have determined that the facts and information provided are
plenty honest and objective. I came across different views
and opinions, but the facts were always consistent and the
articles were quite unbiased. Next, engineers must mind
themselves about forming a faithful relationship between
agents and trustees [9]. I can understand how this cannon
could pose a conflict of interest and such in other sectors of
engineering, but in this sector, in this particular topic, I
cannot see many conflicts being involved. The only problem
I could foresee between an engineer and their agent or
trustee would be an upset consumer reporting of false
advertising of efficiency or cost relating to the technology
itself. In addition, the code of ethics for all engineers calls
for the avoidance of deceptive acts of any magnitude or
nature and carry themselves in an ethically, responsible and
lawful manner as to honor and enhance the reputation of
their profession [9]. This means that there will be absolutely
no tolerance for bribery, fraud, corruption and any other
unlawful act. Of course there are selfish individuals in every
industry who will conduct themselves in such a way that will
bring shame to others of their profession, therefore the
violation of this cannon is pretty much unavoidable. In
particular, thin film solar technology is not a field that I
believe would have an exceptional amount of self-seeking
individuals. The only thing anyone can do as an engineer,
an engineering student or regular members of society is keep
a look out for such behavior and try to uphold this moral in
our own lives. All in all thin film solar technology is a very
ethical approach to solving many problems that society faces
today. Thin film solar technology has the potential to better
and boost the way we function as a society as a whole and
BENEFITS OF THE TRADEOFF
The benefits of solar powered photovoltaic technology
are overwhelming. From the environmental protection and
diversity of fuel supply, to the economic growth and job
creation, to the global potential for sharing of technology
and innovation, critics are wondering why it took us so long
to turn to solar power. The first major benefit would be the
abundance of sunlight. We know that we will never run out
of sunlight, so the cost needed to put into the production of
the technology is a one-time cost, and it will last a lifetime.
Another strong point about the abundance would be that we
know we are not using up a non-renewable resource.
Secondly, thin-film solar technology, and in fact all solar
technology, is non-toxic. There is no physical way that this
technology could ever impact the environment in a negative
way or create a toxic byproduct that could harm someone.
This aspect also promotes the ethics of thin-film solar
technology by “improving the environment by adherence to
the principles of sustainable development so as to enhance
the quality of life of the general public” [6]. To me this
means that these civil, environmental and chemical
engineers who are all working together to develop and
implant this technology firmly into society are all closely
adhering to their code of ethics as well as the overall purpose
of engineering. Thirdly, costs to create thin-film solar
technology are potentially much lower than other sources of
energy and even other types of solar technologies. Unlike
many other energy sources that call for constant payment,
the costs for solar technology are up front, and they pay
themselves off in the long run [7].
ETHICALLY CORRECT
The code of ethics for engineers is something that every
engineer needs to live, love and abide by. It not only deals
with the legal aspect of engineering, it also discusses
morally how all engineers should conduct themselves in all
professional settings. Honestly, I believe that engineers are
the creators of tomorrow as they push to solve problems and
make the world a better living environment for everyone. So
because engineers are the ones who determine the future
they can be looked at as the role models to the rest of
society. Because the decisions and actions of engineers
affect all of humanity, the code of ethics is fundamental and
essential for any advancement. This means that before an
engineering student can become an engineer, they need to
have a solid grasp of the concept of the role of ethics in the
real world. I believe this concept is exceptionally important
2
Sierra Staats
the only way it will operate properly is if everybody in this
field adheres to these very important amendments.
Solar Cell Technology." NewsRx Science (9 May 2010):
13. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
<http://lexisnexis.com/lnacui2api/delivery>.
[4] “Walmart to use lighter, lower-cost, thin-film solar
technology.” Chain Store Age Nov. 2010: 58. General
OneFile.Web.1 Oct. 2012.
<http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA24289
7589&v=2.1&u=upitt_main&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w>.
[5] "Research and Markets; Solar Photovoltaic Market
Guide 2012." Energy Weekly News (9 Dec. 2011): 93.
LexisNexis Academic. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
<http://lexisnexis.com/lnacui2api/delivery>.
[6] "Code of Ethics." American Society of Civil Engineers.
N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2012.
<http://www.asce.org/LeadershipandManagement/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/>.
[7] Ullal, Harin S. "Research and Applications." Progress in
Photovoltaics. N.p.: John Wiley &Sons, n.d. 113-42.
Print.
[8] Furse, C.; , "Lecture-Free Engineering Education,"
Antennas and Propagation Magazine, IEEE , vol.53,
no.5, pp.176-179, Oct. 2011
<http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumb
er=6138460&isnumber=6138406>.
[9] "NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers." NSPE Code of
Ethics for Engineers. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2012.
<http://www.nspe.org/Ethics/CodeofEthics/index.html>.
THE ECONOMY ALSO AGREES
In addition to all of the benefits that thin-film solar
technology offers and the ethics that support this industry,
another huge benefit would be their expectation to take the
economy by storm. As this positive product advances and
becomes more efficient and abundant, the cost to produce
this solar technology will decrease. This will then cause an
increase in demand and allow small businesses and everyday
consumers to scoop up this clean technology for personal
usage. To support this, the U.S. market for solar technology
grew a hefty 67% in 2010 alone [5]. Similarly, the solar
market share jumped all the way to six billion in 2010 from
a meager $3.6 billion in 2009 [5]. This is a small
demonstration of what is to come if solar technologies
continue to advance like the way they have been in the past
couple of years.
AMERICA: LOOKING FORWARD
All solar technologies are a function of environment
safety, cost, and efficiency, and within the next few years,
thin-film solar technology will have all of that. I believe that
we need to start now. As the efficiency of solar technology
rises and the cost inversely falls, businesses and
homeowners need to take a stand in this fight for clean
efficient energy. Americans who have the means of
purchasing this technology should jump at this investment
opportunity. If the idea of “going green” is not appealing
enough to coerce one to purchase this technology, the
concept of being stable and self-sufficient should. Even with
recent price drops the cost of solar technology still seems to
be financially out of reach by a large portion of the United
States, but looking towards the future, thin-film solar
technology would pay itself off in approximately four years
[7]. Soon enough there will be photovoltaic shingles on the
roofs of homes all across the nation providing self-sufficient,
free energy for every day needs. This has the possibility of
posing another problem: what will Americans do with all the
money they will be saving on electricity costs?
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I gratefully acknowledge help from the database system here
at the University of Pittsburgh. It provides me with so much
reliable information at my fingertips. I would also like to
thank the staff of the Hillman library for having such a
pleasant working environment for me to write this paper in.
In addition to the Hillman staff I would like to thank the
Market Central staff who allowed me to stay down there
until two in the morning on a Saturday night.
REFERENCES
[1] Roberts, David. “Solar Power.” Popular Science July
2009: 40+. General OneFile. Web. 1 Oct. 2012
[2] "Research and Markets; Global Solar Photovoltaics
Industry - PEST Framework Analysis - 2012." Energy
Weekly News (6 July 2012): 68. LexisNexis Academic.
Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
<http://www.lexisnexis.com/lnacui2api/delivery>.
[3] "Oregon State University; Advance Made in Thin-film
3
Download

[6]. To me this means that these civil, environmental and chemical