5 Technologies That Will Drive The Growth Of Solar Panels For The Next Several Decades

As at 2014, the cumulative global capacity for solar power has reached 178GW. But, this number pales in significance when we consider the net energy consumption by the world’s population. Among the major industrialised nations, in 2016, Germany is leading the way and on 16th May 2016, the government met nearly all its energy demand of 45.8 GW from renewable energy, for the first time. Germany also understands that there should always be a source of backup power in the form of thermal energy and thankfully, the nation can export her surplus power. Most regions of Germany receive an average of about 1500 hours sunshine annually, barring some pockets in Southern Germany where it edges up closer to the 2,000 hours mark per annum. Interestingly, Australia receives more than 3,000 hours of sunlight every year but lags behind in solar power production and consumption. Australia generates about 5GW of solar power representing 9% of the total energy production/consumption. Setting up a solar panel is a good idea for power consumption. You can set up systems across all types of buildings including businesses, schools, and homes. You can go through the case study of Euro Solar to know more about the solar panels and energy consumption.

The Road Ahead

With more and more nations focusing on clean energy and the world as a community getting more concerned about climate change and its potentially devastating effect on the human race, solar energy is bound to be harnessed at an increasing pace with more GW being added every month. The following five technologies are expected to lead the way to make this global energy revolution happen. Two major constraints that impede the progress of solar panel industry and therefore solar generation are – the cost of solar PV panels which is stiff presently, with a projected payback period put at about 19 years. This needs to moderate to below 10 years to make the upfront investment more viable. The second constraint is storing energy produced. In some regions where sunlight is abundant, all the energy produced in a day may not be consumed by those who own the installation. Commercial installations will have to find ways of storing solar energy efficiently and distribute them via the grid. That brings into focus, the means for storing solar energy.

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Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are already gaining popularity, and One of the American Manufacturer have already launched their Power pack and Power wall, with supporting infrastructure. But the offering is in its nascent state, and the pricing, at first sight, is not ideal for mass consumption. As the popularity of solar power storage and utilisation picks up, the product is expected to achieve better economies of scale leading to significant reduction in prices. Other major electronic manufacturers have already recognised the opportunities in Lithium-ion batteries and are building large capacities of batteries around the world. With more consumers willing to put their money behind solar storage systems, there will be more players entering the segment contributing to healthy competition and affordable pricing.

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Flow Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are known to be useful only for small-scale power consumers such as computers and smart phones. When it comes to large-scale use, we need a different system. This is why companies have been focusing on flow batteries. This type of battery converts electric energy to chemical energy and back to electrical energy. The chemical is capable of being stored in vast volumes for later use and power thus stored can be significantly higher compared to lithium-ion batteries.

Flow batteries are similar to rechargeable batteries in a remote, except that it is on a larger scale. Flow batteries are still being developed and much more research is needed before they become commercially viable. But the technology holds great promise for the future.

Liquid Cooling

More companies now invested in High view Power Storage, which uses liquid air for storing energy. By cooling air to 196 degrees Celsius, the air is turned into liquid. 700 litres of cooled air can be kept in the space taken up by just one litre of hot air. Further, the storage of cooled air needs only insulated tanks (stainless steel). To generate electricity, the cold air is warmed up to expand and power a turbine which in turn produces electricity. This technology may come in handy for storing large volumes of energy but not as a fast source of energy.

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Hydrogen

Theoretically, hydrogen is the best medium to store energy. It is benign even when it leaks and available in abundance. Turning water into hydrogen and then hydrogen to electricity is relatively straightforward and commercially viable.

However, hydrogen is neither efficient nor cost effective. But, over the longer term, hydrogen has the potential to stand neck to neck with solar energy. A project recently completed by ITM power involved converting the wind to hydrogen for energy storage and fueling vehicles. This technology can potentially apply to solar energy. Theoretically, projects of a similar nature can store hydrogen for several months and even move it around a country. But, how soon this becomes a reality cannot be predicted.

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Demand Response

This is perhaps the easiest way to channelize solar energy to the electricity grid almost seamlessly. Presently this is just a small component in any electricity network today. Customers can reduce their demand when solar plants do not produce energy and conversely increase demand when the plants are producing energy. Demand response can work on large solar plants as well as small systems on rooftops.

Energy Storage – A Major Hurdle

Energy storage is one major hurdle in the growth of solar energy because of the manner in which solar energy is generated. Some calculations indicate that it takes about 115,000 square miles or the area of Arizona to produce all the energy needed by the world today. But, building such a massive solar power generating unit would call for an investment of trillions of dollars, but mostly cannot be ruled out. When that happens, storage of energy will come to the forefront and the technologies discussed above will invariably come alive.

If the energy landscape can change in the next two decades, the human race will be a lot happier. But, for those involved in traditional means of generating energy, that could be bad news.

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Military Veterans: Role of psychologists in the behavioural and mental health

Many countries spend billions of dollars in securing their borders and the population inside the respective countries. The USA heads the list of global military expenditure with an annual budget exceeding $570 billion, though other major economies are not far behind.

Military personnel have same aspirations like anyone of us

Behind the chunk of this money are men and women in flesh and blood, just like anyone of us. Most of us seldom get an opportunity to spare a thought to the lives of these men and women whose services keep us safe and secure to pursue our objectives in life. We all have to eat, drink and sleep to sustain life. Those are the minimum basic needs and beyond that, we have a family to love, care for, and protect. The military personnel to have the same needs and aspirations out of life though their occupation denies them these privileges throughout the best part of their career.

Things dramatically change in the combat field

The civil society may feel that the military and other service personnel enjoy a relaxed and well-provisioned lifestyle when they are not engaged in the fighting. This thought is also pretty much close to truth. But, what occurs when they are in the combat mode. Everything changes, and most often at rapid speed too. The life on the battlefield is often inhospitable and military personnel have to trek along long and hazardous terrains, carrying not just weaponry, but also rations, to sustain themselves for several days at a stretch. Apart from this, there is death and destruction watching on their face every minute till they return to their base camps or headquarters. This is but a summary of the life of military personnel, and there are associated challenges like concerns of the family, distance from the loved ones, and other psychological issues that impact the individuals.

Problems galore at the end of active service

At the end of a specified period of active service, military personnel return home and adorn the role of veterans. Some of the more common problems that veterans face include:-

  • Difficulty in making decisions or concentrating
  • Constant alertness and jumpiness
  • Flashbacks or memories and troubling dreams
  • Rapid breathing and a rise in heart rate
  • Constant exhaustion and insomnia
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Increase in consumption of drugs/alcohol/tobacco or food
  • Feeling helpless, sad, fearful, nervous, numb, shocked and sad
  • Agitation or irritability

Wounds of war

The wounds that war leaves behind go well beyond what many civilians can see. From illness to pain and mental health issues, the life of veterans is set with multiple problems and the frequencies of these problems are also more than what the general population faces.

The role of psychologists

Returning from the combat field, veterans also face a slew of health concerns including psychological and physical issues apart from psychosocial issues about family and work. Often, the problems of veterans can hardly be addressed by one stream of experts. Given the complexity of problems, a psychologist would be the first person who can patiently listen to the veterans and dissect his/her problems. Once the problems are compartmentalised, experts from the respective streams of medicine and other disciplines can be brought in to find the necessary resolutions.

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Help from a clinical psychologist comes into focus more because physical complaints most commonly seen among veterans are difficult to be codified into a single order. These include symptoms like pain, fatigue, cognitive issues and concentration problems without a specific relationship to any one disease condition. Many experts feel that the intensity and duress in a combat field make people worn out and hurting.

Mental health

Depression and PTSD are among the more common mental health issues that Veterans face. Consequently, this leads to alcohol abuse and violent behaviour. PTSD on its own disables the individual and with each passing year, other physical illnesses set in, more so when tobacco and alcohol take centre stage in the lives of veterans.

Physical health

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Chemical exposure in war zones can also trigger heart damage and war zones have several other toxic chemicals in the environment accentuating the associated health issues. Veterans also suffer from infections that are uncommon in the civil society. Since some of these infections are rare, vaccines are not available, and that adds further to the woes of veterans.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Exposure to blasts and similar activities in the combat field can potentially trigger TBI or traumatic brain injury. TBI, in turn, can trigger many cognitive issues which in some instances can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, memory loss, and loss of motivation. It should also be remembered that most death in the combat area results from blasts or exposure to explosions.

Improved mental health can address many physical problems

In conclusion, a registered psychologist can play a crucial role in the mental health and behavioural of military veterans in more ways than one. The psychologist providing this key service to veterans would be expected to have adequate experience and exposure to a wide range of veteran issues. It takes loads of patience, understanding and compassion talking to the veterans, getting to the depth of their problems and finding solutions. We cannot forget that they are very much a part of our communities and the civil society as a singular unit should at all times acknowledge the contributions from the veterans. Helping the veterans to get socially involved, creating a network of new friends, helping them find occupations to physically engage those are fit to work, and providing them with a lively environment is one way the society can contribute to the well-being of veterans. Meantime, most nations have their established systems to care for the veterans and provide help from competent professionals from different walks of life. But, it is the care and concern, we civilians have, for the veterans that will expedite their reunion into the mainstream of life.