In addition, in some developing nations it may be economic to use solar generation to reduce reliance on imported oil, particularly if that oil must be moved by truck to remote generator sites.
A companion working paper discusses both these valuable roles for solar energy in the developing world.
Since electricity has become the preferred form of energy for almost all of our needs, a major emphasis in research has been on increasing the efficiency of conversion to electricity and reducing the costs.
There are two main methods of converting solar energy to electricity – photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal power (commonly known as CSP, acronym for concentrating solar power).
A tiny fraction of the solar energy that falls on the earth is sufficient to take care of all of the needs on the earth (for details please see Chapter 1 of Principles of Solar Engineering, 3rd Ed. So it is obvious that if we are to depend on solar energy for our needs, we must be able to store it efficiently and cost effectively.
By the way, wind, biomass, ocean energy, hydro etc.The present trend in research in PV is focused on using earth abundant materials for PV, since some of the materials in today’s PV panels, such as, Cadmium, Tellurium, Gallium, indium, selenium etc.are not abundant and also become hazardous waste at the end of panel life.We concentrate on the use of grid-connected solar-powered generators to replace conventional sources of electricity.For the more than one billion people in the developing world who lack access to a reliable electric grid, the cost of small-scale PV generation is often outweighed by the very high value of access to electricity for lighting and charging mobile telephone and radio batteries.In contrast to some earlier Future of studies, we also present no forecasts — for two reasons.First, expanding the solar industry dramatically from its relatively tiny current scale may produce changes we do not pretend to be able to foresee today.I would just like to mention one trend only (to keep this article from becoming too long), which I started back in the early 1990s.Back then, I conceptualized a thermodynamic cycle, now known as the Goswami Cycle, in which you can convert thermal energy to power and cooling in the same cycle.Since thermal power conversion efficiencies increase with an increase in the temperature (second law of thermodynamics), the trend in research is to improve the central receiver tower (power tower) technology to increase the conversion temperatures to around 700 C-800C.And since it is not practical to use steam at such high temperatures, present research is to find a replacement for steam.