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Business Impact in Solar Energy

Solar Energy, characterized by the manipulations of the radiant heat coming from the sun, is considered one of the renewable energy resources aside from wind power, biomass, hydroelectric, and wave power. This radiant heat coming from the sun is converted to electricity and can be utilized by the different sectors of the society such as in the electrification of homes, heating equipment, solar powered buildings, thermal or heat energy in cooking, to name a few. The quantity of solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface is so enormous (accounted for almost 99% of the combined available renewable energy resources available) that if harnessed efficiently will be a double of the Earth’s conventional energy resources of oil, coal, uranium, and natural gas.

Since solar power does not depend on fossil fuels, the cost of utilizing it differs from the conventional method of utilizing electricity. The conventional electric power production emanates from the electric power generating plants that uses fossil fuels: coal, crude petroleum refined to diesel fuel, and natural gas. The use of this conventional power constitutes almost a major percent of the world’s electric power production, though the renewable energy resources are gaining wide acceptance as an alternative source of energy.

Typical applications

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of solar energy depend on the way or manner the radiation is being “captured”, either it is active or passive. An active solar process or technique utilizes pumps, photovoltaic cells, and fans to convert sunlight to useful form of energy. The Passive process or technique includes the proper selection of materials that has a favorable thermal characteristics used in designing spaces to enable the natural circulation of air, and to the correct positioning of the Sun relative to the building. The active solar technologies, concerned on increasing the energy supplies, is considered on the supply side; while the technologies on passive solar reduces the relative need for an alternative sources and are generally termed demand portion of the technology (Balcomb, 1992, p. 133).

Since solar energy can be considered on either side of technology, supply or demand side, the practical applications

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of it will give considerable business opportunities and will consequently lead to innovations and advancement on technologies. Several applications

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of solar energy and its related business impact and opportunities are illustrated below.Urban Planning and ArchitectureSunlight has directly influenced the design of buildings and urban communities since the Greek periods. Usually they oriented the building structures towards the south to provide warmth and light.

The passive solar architecture orients the structure relative to the Sun, provides a low ratio of surface area to volume, thermal mass, and overhangs or selective shadings. When these processes are fit to a specific environment and climate, the design can produce a well-lighted place that is within the range of a comfortable temperature. Providing with active solar methodology,  such as addition of fans and pumps to better circulate air will contribute to the improvement and design of the system. This will give opportunities to new architectural designs and innovations, and business opportunities for architects and contractors as well (see Figure 1). Urban designs are also of considerations since the metropolitan areas are considered with higher a temperature compared to the surrounding environment.

This will result in the absorption of solar radiation of materials such as concrete, and asphalt. Planting trees and painting buildings white in color can counteract this. This method, implemented in Los Angeles, has estimated $530 million of savings incurred from the reduction of air-conditioning usage from home, offices, and businesses; reduction of costs, as well as added savings in health care.Figure 1. A passive house design in Washington DCAgricultureIn a general sense, solar energy applied to agriculture will optimize plants productivity. Different techniques are applied such as implementing time related planting cycles, mixing of plant varieties; customized row orientation can vastly develop crop yields.

The importance of solar energy in agriculture may be manifested in the construction of fruit walls, in pumping of water, drying chicken manure and brooding chicks, and drying of crops. The Greenhouse also utilizes the solar radiation to enable the growth of the plant in a closed system or environment. This is intended for growing plants not suitable to the existing climate of the area (see Figure 2).Figure 2. A Greenhouse facility in Westland, Netherlands Solar LightingThe use of artificial lighting system utilizes the natural light emitted by the sun to provide the necessary illumination to a building’s interior.

This form a passive technology through directly offsetting energy usage by replacing artificial lighting, and reducing the use also of air-conditioning. This procedure consists of carefully selecting the appropriate window sizes, types, shadings, relative orientations, and defined architectural structures. This will consequently have a big impact on the costs of electricity in businesses in the sense that there will be less usage of electric power (see Figure 3). Figure 3. The Oculus at the pantheon

Solar Thermal and Water Treatment

The technology in solar thermal can be manifested in the form of space heating, generation of process heat, and water heating. This again will provide savings in electricity for homes and businesses that utilizes such services. Water treatment process implements the solar water disinfection procedure that involves exposing the plastic container, which is water, filled, to sunlight for a considerable amount of time. The length of the exposure depends on the climate and weather of the area but it is usually done within six hours or a maximum of two days. Solar energy can also be utilized to treat wastewater on a water-stabilizing pond. This does not require the use of electricity or any chemicals.

Solar Electricity

The use of solar cells or photovoltaic cells (PV) to collect the solar radiation or energy from the sun is another practical application that has an impact on the economy and businesses alike. During the high cost of oil in 1970 to 1980’s, a large demand of solar cell production took place to serve as an alternative means of producing electricity. This led to the growth of the creation of solar cells in the industry sector, being U.S., Japan, and Germany the leading manufacturer of solar cells, with a continuous worldwide growth of around 30% annually. Other countries are now engaged in the manufacturing of solar cells such as Korea, Italy, and France (see figure 4).

Figure 4. A Building with solar cells can be seen on the roof

Solar Vehicles

The development of solar powered vehicle began in the 1980’s and continually being developed. Different vehicles are re-engineered to simulate the use of solar energy such as on solar boats (see Figure 5), and solar powered cars. This give business opportunities to both car and boat manufacturers and also to the photovoltaic cells manufacturing.

These are some of the related impact of solar energy to potential business opportunities that can produce increased productivity, savings in electricity as well as electric costs, innovations and development. An illustration of the businesses that benefited from utilizing solar energy is the following: SolarWrights inc., a contributor of renewable energy systems, had a remarkable 750% increase in revenue over the past two years and awarded the Business Excellence Award on entrepreneurship. Robert Chew, the founder of the company, insists that the impact depends on the form of energy.

The installation of solar cells and wind power reduces the energy demand of homes and businesses from fossil- fuel production plants. Since the cost of electricity coming from these power plants continues to increase, the use of renewable energy resources will be very beneficial and just in time. The Stone Brewing Co., after changing to solar energy usage, has considerably increased revenue by almost 57% from around $16 million to $ 26 million in 2007. This reflected almost 40% off on their electric energy bills by preferring to go on utilizing solar energy (Scheer, 2002, p.138).

Recently in the United States, there has been an Act on Health care and Tax Relief for consumers and businesses that purchased or installed solar powered energy equipment. This includes homes that utilize solar panel and buildings utilizing solar energy. These credits on taxes include energy credit on general businesses of around 10% to 30%, depreciation (accelerated) of the cost of the system with almost 85% deduction for the first 5 years, bonus depreciation, incentive programs, enhancement of property values, and new schedules on electric rates. The act clearly indicates the strong support on promoting the utilization of solar energy to homeowners and businesses (Smil, 2006, p. 104).

The impact of solar energy to business provides substantial benefits in terms of costs, productivity, innovations, development, and enhancements. Be it on the different practical applications

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of solar energy, or through the creation of Acts that can be beneficial to the end user of solar energy. Several companies like the SolarWright, and Stone Brewing has dramatically increased in revenue through the utilization of solar energy. The costs of electric bills on these two companies have decreased tremendously through the use of photovoltaic cells or solar cells. It is eminent that the production of solar equipment and the subsequent utilization of solar energy through this will provide a big impact on their business operations.

It is termed a “Solar Revolution” since the creation of photovoltaic cells, the development of Greenhouse, the innovations in waste water treatment in the form of solar water disinfection, solar powered cars, solar heaters, and the like provided the much needed alternatives. Since the costs of fossil-fueled generating power electricity continue to soar high, the shift to renewable alternative sources of energy will continue to grow.  Solar energy will consequently be the cheapest form or source of renewable energy in almost all of the locations and markets due to the fact that the solar cells can directly deliver power from the end user, eliminating the power grid. This will have an influence on the energy economics and as the production scale of utilizing solar energy increases, the shift from fuels to solar energy will be eminent.

References

Douglas Balcomb (1992). Passive Solar Buildings. MIT, 132-135.

James Bolton (1977). Solar Power and Fuels. Academic Press, 250-260.

Donald Carr (1976). Energy and the Earth Machine. W.W. Norton and Company, 85.

Hermann Scheer (2002). The Solar Economy: Renewable Energy for a Sustaining Global Furture. Earthscan Publications Ltd. 136 – 45.

Vaclav Smil (2006). Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties. MIT Press.104.

Andrew Vecchia (1981). Possibilities for the Application of Solar Energy. Wiley, 166.

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