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Alondra Ramirez

Professor Sarah Prasad

ENGL 2 Sec. 06

November 15, 2018

Energy the Photovoltaic way

Imagine having to turn on a candle every time you need light, imagine having to live by

the suns schedule. This was the reality until the 1870's were when Thomas Edison created the

first long-lasting light bulb. Currently, in the 21st century, we are preparing to fully embrace the

change of receiving our energy from fossil fuels to a more sustainable and renewable source, the

sun. The sun is an unceasing source of energy making it ideal to harvest and use it for human

use. Photovoltaic (PV) Cells, commonly known as Solar Electric, can be applied to common

structures, commonly rooftops. Just like fossil fuels, PV systems have constraints but also plenty

of benefits, such as those of lowering energy production costs for users. With a variety of energy

sources available, Solar Energy is one of the most convenient, low cost, sustainable, efficient

energy sources in the world.

In 1876 William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day discovered that when exposed to

light, selenium produced electricity at a low level proving that without heat or moving solid

material could change light into electricity. In 1954 in the Bells Lab Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller,

and Gerald Pearson discovered Photovoltaic cells after observing that silicone created an electric

current when exposed to sunlight (“Photovoltaic…”). Semiconductor material absorbs solar

cells, photons, creating holes and electrons that pair and surround these holes which are directed
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one way to create a current which is then harvested as electricity (Husain et al.). Only certain

materials have the ability to absorb sunlight and process it to create energy, and some of these

materials will be introduced in the following paragraphs. Since PV systems were invented, there

has been a significant advancement in the technology. Initially, the system was only able to

power a small object, now a well designed and implemented PV system has the capability to

sustain a building, up to a certain capacity. After the energy crisis of the 1970’s, there was a

higher interest in PV systems to produce more low-cost clean energy for homes and business.

However, the price for the semiconductors was 30 times more expensive compared to today’s

prices (“Photovoltaic…”). The following image, provided by the Solar Energy Industries

Association, shows how PV system prices have dropped 59% in the past ten years, with more

technology and resources being invested the prices have substantially changed. The lower the

price to install these systems is, the more households will adopt Photovoltaics.
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Different materials and systems will suffice the needs of different users. The most

commonly used and best conductant to build PV cells is Silicone, it is derived from sand and

therefore highly available with a long-expectancy lifetime. The most inexpensive material is a

rich carbon polymer; however, it is less efficient and has a shorter lifetime compared to other

conductors, this material is used in a system called Organic Photovoltaic (OPV). Concentration

Photovoltaic (CPV) has a high efficiency by using a lens or mirror to focus sunlight on a solar

cell, but due to the manufacturing techniques and material needed it can be a costly system. A

fairly new system called Thin-Film Photovoltaic (TFPV) enables any glass, metal or plastic to

produce energy by placing a flexible TFPV over it. TFPV is out made of copper indium gallium

dieseline (CIGS) and cadmium telluride (CdTe) (Solar Photovoltaic… 2013). Currently, there

are nine prominent Transparent Photovoltaic (TPV) systems under development, they function

and are made from similar materials as the TFPV, with the difference of the cell being

transparent and the cost being less (Husain et al. 2018). By creating a transparent Photovoltaic

cell, more building owners are more willing to adopt these systems as it would not change the

aesthetics of the building while self-sustaining the building’s energy demand.

Photovoltaic Systems have many benefits and some constraints. Energy harvesting, what

most of the solar systems are for, can supply 19% of the residence’s demand when 25% of the

rooftop is used in hot climates such as those of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, due to the shading

effect from the panels, the cooling load is reduced by 2% resulting in more energy efficiency

(Dehwah and Asif. 2018). Large buildings would benefit from having panels on the rooftop and

Transparent PV on their windows to increase the efficiency of the system and make a green
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energy self-sustainable building that will save money in the long-run. A study by Schindler et al.

involving the use of PV systems on the roof of a greenhouse found that this combination did not

harm the vegetation, as it prolonged flowering time and enhanced the growth of sedum while

producing energy that aids the sustainability of the building. PV technologies can be used in a

variety of building, and their benefits are apparent; nonetheless, the technology still has to

continue its development to become more efficient so the whole country can consume its energy

from clean sources. In 2016, the United States consumed 17% of the total energy in the world

(“What is…” 2018) while in 2017 only 12.7% of the energy produced and consumed by the

United States was derived from renewable sources (“The United States…” 2018). By increasing

the efficiency and lowering the cost of systems, the country is bound to adopt the systems while

ensuring that there are enough non-renewable resources for future generations by lowering the

usage.

Slowly the planet is transitioning to renewable energy, particularly in developed

countries, with the goal of lowering CO2 emissions so that our planet can start slowly healing.

Taking advantage of renewable resources does not only help the planet, but it also helps bring

costs down, and it ensures that everyone has energy available anywhere. The United States is

currently in the transition to renewable sources, that means more electric cars and clean energy

systems. To aid the transition the federal, state, and the local government offers a variety of

incentives to encourage households to acquire these systems. As of 2018, the federal government

offered a Personal Tax Credit of 30% for solar-electric, solar water-heating, fuel cell, small wind

energy and geothermal heat systems that are placed before December 31st, 2019. For systems

installed between January 1st, 2020 and December 30st, 2020 the claimable tax credit will be
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26% and 22% if placed between January 1st, 2021 and January 1st, 2022, requirements might

vary depending on the system chosen (Residential Renewable Energy… 2005). California

currently has no state-wide incentives, local government and energy agencies provide rebates

and other incentives to encourage residents to acquire any clean, renewable energy (Tax

Credits…). There is grants available that organizations can apply for if they qualify, for example

“Solar For Schools…” by Alicen Kandt (2011) is a case study about three school districts from

the San Francisco Bay Area that won the 2009 DOE Solar America Showcase award of $4.5

million for their Solar Schools Assessment and Implementations Project (SSAIP) involving the

installment of PV systems. Although not all companies and households can apply for grants,

there is other financial help from different sources that are worth taking a look at if considering

acquiring a clean energy system that in the long run will save the owners money.

Technological advances and new ideas are brought to life every day, all over the world,

allowing us to have any technology we need to make our everyday life more comfortable and

more efficient. As our planet begins to deteriorate due to the years of exploitation, we need to

adopt new systems that will stop and reverse this process. Photovoltaic systems are one of the

initial steps towards this goal, by ensuring that our energy systems are self-sustainable,

renewable, clean sources that will not harm the environment. In conclusion, more research and

attention should go to this industry since there is a considerable amount of benefits from

Photovoltaic systems that can benefit communities, industries and the health of the planet.
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Works Cited

Dehwah, Ammar H. A., and Muhammad Asif. Assessment of Net Energy Contribution to

Buildings by Rooftop Photovoltaic Systems in Hot-Humid Climates. 131 Vol. , 2019. Web.

Husain, Alaa A. F., et al. A Review of Transparent Solar Photovoltaic Technologies. 94 Vol. ,

2018. Web.

Kandt, Alicen. "Solar for Schools: A Case Study in Identifying and Implementing Solar

Photovoltaic (PV) Projects in Three California School Districts." ASES Solar (2011). Web.

"Photovoltaic (Solar Electric)." SEIA- Solar Energy Industries Association. Web. Nov 9, 2018

<https://www.seia.org/initiatives/photovoltaic-solar-electric>.

"Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit." DSIRE. 2005. Web. Nov 9, 2018

<http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/detail/1235>.

Schindler, Bracha Y., et al. Green Roof and Photovoltaic Panel Integration: Effects on Plant and

Arthropod Diversity and Electricity Production. 225 Vol., 2018. Web.

"Solar Photovoltaic Cell Basics." Office of energy efficiency and renewable energy. August 16,

2013. Web. Nov 3, 2018 <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/articles/solar-photovoltaic-

cell-basics>.
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"Tax Credits for Solar System Purchase." Go Solar California. Web. Nov 5, 2018

<https://www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov/consumers/taxcredits.php>.

"U.S. Energy Facts." U.S. Energy Information Administration. May 16, 2018. Web. Nov 9, 2018

<https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=us_energy_home#tab1>.

"What is the United States’ share of world energy consumption?" U.S. Energy Information

Administration. October 31, 2018. Web. Nov 3, 2018

<https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=87&t=1

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