Solar Energy ;its efficiency and challenges



This research proposal posits to establish a platform for additional research on the suitability of solar thermal technology with a focus on the efficiency of solar energy.

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In order to realize the efficiency of solar energy, there is a need to develop appropriate technologies that would address this issue. However, these technologies should be feasible and replicable in order to be of use in realizing the efficiency of solar energy.Currently, the types of technologies that are being used are costly, and practically inadequate in realizing the efficiency of solar energy.In the absence of feasible technologies that would tap into the efficiency of solar energy, the benefits of solar energy will remain a mirage.

Proposal Statement. This paper proposes to review the accessible literature regarding efficiency of solar energy with a primary focus on solar thermal technology. The projected goals are:

  1. To explain the suitability of solar thermal technology in relation to the efficiency of solar energy.
  2. To determine if solar thermal technology would be a suitable option for implementation concerning to the efficiency of solar energy.

Scope. The literature review will include several scholarly articles on the suitability of solar thermal technology with a focus on the efficiency of solar energy, found via the Academic Search Premier database using the keywords solar energy efficiency, and solar thermal technology and published between the years 2000 and 2009.

Organization. This proposal entails an introduction into the efficacy of solar energy. The paper illustrates the need for research into solar thermal technology with a focus on realizing the benefits of the efficiency of solar energy.

Background. There are presently two techniques for collection of solar thermal energy. Line focus collection would be the first technique. The second technique is point focus collection.  It is essential to note that, line focus is cheaper, and technically less complex, although it is not as resourceful as point focus. The foundation for this technology is usually a mirror that is parabola-shaped, that revolves on a single axis during the day as it tracks the sun. Point focus method requires a sequence of mirrors that surround a middle tower, referred to as a power tower. These mirrors are intended to focus the rays of the sun against a point on the tower. This subsequently converts the heat into utilizable energy. Although point focus is initially expensive and technically nuanced, it surpasses line focus in relation to results (Romero 75).

The subsequent research will endeavor to explain many of these attributes. Following the explanations of the attributes, the research will evaluate the suitability of solar thermal technology, in relation to efficiency in solar energy. It is essential to understand that solar thermal technology is different from photovoltaic, or solar panel technology. The solarthermal electric energy production concentrates the light originating from the sun to generate heat. Consequently, that heat is utilized to ignite a heat engine, which in turn runs a generator to produce electricity. A gas or liquid may be used as working fluid that is heated by the intense sunlight. There are several working fluids that can be used such as water, salts, oil, air, helium, or nitrogen, among many. Different kinds of engines can also be used, likesteam engines, gas turbines, or Stirling engines. These engines are relatively efficient, usually in the range of 30% to 40%, and are able to produce up to 100’s of megawatts (MW) of power. Photovoltaic (PV) energy conversion, in contrast, converts the sun’s light directly into electricity (Romero 63). The PV technology means that the solar panels can only be effective in daylight hours, since storing electricity is not an efficient process. It is essential to note that, storage of solar heat is a lot easier as well as, an efficient method. This makes solar thermal increasingly attractive, because of its comparable efficiency in solar energy production on a large-scale. In solar thermal technology, solar heat is stored during daytime, and subsequently transformed into electricity. On the subject of efficiency, power stations that generate solar thermal have capacities for storage that significantly improve the distribution as well as economics of solar energy (Harmon 62).

In the subject of low-costs, as well as high unconstructive environmental impact, coal leads the way. On the contrary, solar thermal power presently leads as the most appropriate cost-effective technology in relation to efficiency of solar energy on a large scale. It presently beats related PV systems also beats the cost of electricity generated from fossil fuels. With the increasingly industrializing globe, the concern is, and will at all times be, how to this technology will be more economical.

Solar thermal technology is faced with several challenges. Among these challenges, the most evident is competition with the inexpensive and abundant coal. There in need for increased international pressure for more nations to begin taxing on carbon emissions. China and the U.S. should be on the frontline in this case. This is because there is an urgent need to close down the power stations that are coal-fired which are otherwise cheap sources of energy. It is apparent that new coal power stations are opened frequently in the People’s Republic of China (Righelato 100). Obviously, this growth will ultimately have a natural limit. However, at present such consumption and expansion is unconstructively impacting on the global climate change. Concerning the advancement and development of solar thermal, the speedy growth of China and related industrializing countries will hopefully divert from the coal power plants. Large scale transformation to solar thermal technology utilization around the globe will not transpire until solar thermal technology is perceived as the cheaper option. The leaders in the solar thermal industry anticipate reaching that point in a decade (Lane 97).

An additional challenge for solar thermal technology is the quantity of land space required for efficient generation of solar energy. The requisite space ought to be a space that receives a consistent quantity of direct sunlight. The solar thermal power plants characteristically require basically 1/4 to 1 sq. Mile or more of open space. This may be viewed as a silver lining considering the negative consequences of global change in climate, as well as human activity that has made huge chunks of land desolate. This presumably desolate land would be prime space for solar thermal energy generation (Yang 26).

Research Plan. The literature review will deal with the following objectives. The first objective in the research is to explain the suitability of solar thermal technology in reference to the efficiency of solar energy. In order to realize this goal, the research will rely on secondary information from reliable peer-reviewed sources.  A second objective of the literature review is to determine if solar thermal technology might be a suitable option for implementation in pursuit of efficiency of solar energy. The research will base this evaluation on the aforementioned sources as well as International Energy Agency (IEA) standards.

 Trends in research methods or results identifiable in the literature.  In spite of hypotheticaldiscussions that suggest the necessity for many types of approaches to empirical inquiries, research findings show that the vast majority of research remains in quantitative paradigms. However, in this research proposal, the quantitativeresearch method has been utilized. This research method bears two considerable advantages. Firstly, it can be carried out and evaluated speedily. Secondly, numerical data acquired by means of this approach facilitates evaluation and allows determination of the degree of conformity or divergencein the study.

Identifiable weaknesses in the research method. In quantitative research method, the researcher may overlook a significant issue. In quantitative research methods, broad statistical analysis may be required. This may be complex, due to the fact that, most scientists are not proficient statisticians. Therefore, the analysis of data may be either faulty or simply inconsistent.
Topics for Future Research.  Solar thermal technology has an enormous potential for improvement that ought to be fully explored. Future research should include the subject of efficiency increase, and cost reduction of the solar collectors as well as, other components utilized in generation of solar thermal energy. Particularly, system technology as well as heat storage systems are fundamental elements which ought to be developed further.

Brief On Relevance of Articles. The following are the six sources that have been utilized in this paper. The researcher has provided a brief description of the articles and reasons why, the articles are relevant in the research.

  1. Science,Goldemberg, J. ‘Sustainable Energy Future’.

This article has been utilized in this paper since it provides important information on the subject of efficiency of solar energy. It provides a thorough analysis of examples of projects in South America whereby solar energy is preferred as the most efficient source of energy.

  1. Interim Report, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Harmon, C. “Experience Curves of Photovoltaic Technology.”

This publication focuses on technologies concerning renewable electricity. This article is relevant in the research since it provides important information on the solar power industry, concerning efficiency of solar energy.

  1. Solar Heat Storage, Lane, G.

One of the greatest challenges in solar energy utilization is storage. This article provides critical information on the benefits of solar thermal technology since it grants technology for storage of the solar energy. It supports the research proposal in that it considers solar thermal technology as an efficient form of solar power generation.

  1. Science, Righelato, R. ‘Environment: Carbon Mitigation by Bio-fuels or Saving & Restoring Forests?

Although this article discusses at length on the subject of bio-fuels, it provides critical information on the benefits of solar energy in terms of its efficiency. It provides detailed analysis on why solar thermal technology is the most efficient form of solar energy production today.

  1. Journal of Solar Energy Engineering, Transactions of the ASME, Romero, M. ‘Update on Solar Central Receiver Systems, Projects, & Technologies.’

This article is relevant in this research proposal since it provides important information concerning solar thermal technologies. It highlights the efficiency of solar energy through the utilization of solar thermal technologies.

  1. Energy Policy, Yang, M, ‘China’s Energy Efficiency Target 2010.’

The relevance of this article ion this research is that it discusses the challenges that China faces concerning energy efficiency. It provides pertinent information concerning efficiency of solar energy.


The benefits of doing away with coal from the energy diet are numerous. If mankind desisted from burning of fossil fuels, numerous countries would be truly independent in terms of energy.Currently, solar thermal plants are under construction in several places across the globe. Solar thermal is currently, the solar electricity most economical approach. However,more developmentis required to compete with the cheapest fossil fuels in a lawmakingenvironmentdevoid ofcarbon taxes or subsidies. This paper provides a proposed research that would focus on the suitability of solar thermal technology with a focus on the efficiency of solar energy. The research that has been forthwith proposed will realize the following objectives: (1) explain the suitability of solar thermal technology with reference to the efficiency of solar energy and (2) determine if solar thermal technology might be a suitable option for implementation in the pursuit of efficiency of solar energy. The research proposal requests for further research in the subject discussed.



































Works Cited

Goldemberg, J. ‘Sustainable Energy Future,’ Science.35. 5813 (2009): pp. 808-810. Print.

Harmon, C. “Experience Curves of Photovoltaic Technology,” Interim Report, International          Institute for Applied Systems Analysis25.6 (2000): 25. Print.

Lane, G. Solar Heat Storage, London: Thames & Hudson. 2007. Print.

Righelato, R. ‘Environment: Carbon Mitigation by Bio-fuels or Saving &Restoring Forests?          Science 317.5840 (2007): 902. Print.

Romero, M. ‘Update on Solar Central Receiver Systems, Projects, &Technologies,’Journal of       Solar Energy Engineering, Transactions of the ASME 124. 4(2002): 63. Print.

Yang, M. ‘China’s Energy Efficiency Target 2010’, Energy Policy 36. 2 (2008): pp 561-570.        Print.

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