What is the solar revolution? I hear people talking about it every day, but what is it? Is it even real? People complain about dependence on coal, the fractal extraction of natural gas, the pumping of oil to power our cars, the list goes on … It was not a year ago that the "Green Revolution" was upon us. Notice the term "Revolution" that is spreading. Makes it more exciting. How about the "Solar Revolution"? Is it about us?
To put it bluntly, yes, the solar energy revolution is upon us, but probably not in the way you expected. The often touted solar revolution involves solar panels on every home and massive solar farms that stretch across the vast deserts of the world. I hate being the bearer of bad news, as much as everyone would like it, this will never be a reality.
The first problem is that there are not enough high-intensity sunny climates for this to be a reality. For solar power to be feasible, the location needs the most intense cloudless sunlight per day throughout the year. Most places get less than 8 hours of direct sunlight a day at any time of the year. Without this direct sunlight, the economies of solar panels just don't add up, which is key to adoption. You can also get additional information on solar power via Infinityenergy.
The second problem is not related to location, but something that all places on Earth experience at night. Yes, half of our time is spent in the dark. While you may not realize it, I guarantee that your solar panels will notice.
Our society is not structured to use energy only during the day. We need electricity at night to turn on our lights, run our heaters and air conditioners, open our garage door, the list goes on … How do we store energy for the night once the solar revolution is in full swing? I have no idea, this is not an easy issue to solve.
Well, how about a giant lake, we pump water into it during the day using excess electricity and run turbines at night to generate electricity? Now we are talking! But wait, electric pumps are about 50% efficient at pumping water, and turbines are 90% efficient at converting that potential energy into energy. That leaves us as a 45% efficient system.