Energy Options for the New Millennium Essay

1350 Words 6 Pages
Energy Options for the New Millennium

Without electrical energy, society would collapse. Some argue that we would not have the environmental problems that the earth is plagued with today without modern technology, and other critics luddistically suggest relying on a minimal supply of energy and low technology. "There are some...who foresee...when all our electricity will be solar...It is a world of low technology and a simpler life...They call it living in harmony with nature, but it might also be called sliding back toward the lifestyle of our primeval ancestors...[and] there would be no place for...large industrial operations except, presumably, for manufacturing solar cells" (Cohen).

This option might end the energy crisis,
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Incoming photons knock electrons lose in the silicon plating and cause them to flow, resulting in electric current (Christen 396). The primary advantage of photovoltaic cells is the "inexhaustible supply [of energy]" (Blair 123). In addition, solar panels run with minimal maintenance. A photovoltaic cell generates no pollution, creates no noise, and contains few mechanical parts (Casey). Thus solar energy may be collected cleanly, quietly, and indefinitely--without generating pollutants in the process.

In spite of these benefits, today's photovoltaic solar systems do have drawbacks. Specifically, availability and economic facts of life tend to make solar energy impractical. A sunny climate is essential for efficient use of modern photovoltaic cells, and PV solar panels also have a very high manufacturing cost (Blair 123). Today, then, solar panels are far too inefficient and hence too expensive. Furthermore, Bernard L. Cohen points out in "The Breeder Reactor" that "in addition, there are tong term waste problems of solar energy, which pose many times more of a health problem than...nuclear waste." Toxic chemicals are required to produce photovoltaic panels. Future research may reduce or eliminate these problems.

Another "green" alternative energy source is biomass conversion. Two methods to obtain fuel from biomass, or organic material, are in use today: thermochemical conversion and biochemical conversion.