3 Ağustos 2011 Çarşamba

Photovoltaic energy: the door to a more livable world

Tuğba Aydın     Today's Zaman

As the world battles with environmental problems like global warming, inventors are coming up with increasingly innovative and environmentally friendly products every day, such as a “coffee printer,” which makes ink out of coffee beans, or the “solar bench,” which can power your laptop as you sit in a park, solely using the power of the sun.
Reusable energy sources are also increasingly making their way into our lives. One such promising form of energy that is likely to be used extensively in the future is photovoltaic energy.

“Photovoltaic (PV) technology makes a 100 percent clean energy yield possible, using high-capacity solar panels. This is a new way of producing energy in Turkey, so it may take years for us to utilize it to the extent it is used in other developed countries,” explains Furkan Başkurt, a research associate from the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department of İstanbul Technical University (İTU).

Photovoltaic energy uses energy from the sun to create electricity to run appliances and light homes. A photovoltaic system requires only daylight, not direct sunlight, to generate electricity, so it does not need bright sunlight in order to operate. It can also generate electricity on cloudy days.

The USA, Spain, German and France are the leading countries currently using PV systems to generate power. There is also a promising project in the Sahara Desert that would construct a vast solar panel field to turn the region’s sunlight potential into electricity for rural areas. Turkey is among the countries that are just beginning to use PV energy. Why has Turkey been late to come around to PV systems? According to Başkurt, one reason is that government support for renewable energy producers in Turkey is not adequate. However, he says this is changing: “There are some incentives now. The government has begun to purchase power from companies that produce electricity from alternative energy sources such as solar energy, bio-fuels and wind energy, without any contractual obligation on the part of the supplier. Additionally, the government has mapped out available areas for solar energy and wind power generation to encourage entrepreneurs to build environmentally friendly energy power stations.”

Başkurt said he hopes PV systems will come into wider use in Turkey, adding that he believes the future of other renewable energy sources also looks bright. He said signs of change can already be seen. “At İTU, we offer an elective course on photovoltaic systems to train our students to work with this promising form of energy. Some of our research projects are related to eco-friendly inventions. The electricity used to light our parking lot is generated by a small solar panel field. There are some other projects such as a yacht powered by solar energy, a sail produced entirely from waste products and an electric bike that uses alternative energy sources. The Technological Research Council of Turkey ( TÜBİTAK) hosts the Formula G Race, which is open every year to university teams that build cars that run on photovoltaic energy, and race them.”
Why go photovoltaic?

Due to its numerous environmental and economic benefits and proven reliability, photovoltaic energy is emerging as a major power source. It has many advantages both environmentally and economically, because sunlight is a free and limitless source of energy. Photovoltaic energy does not produce noise, harmful emissions or polluting gases. It creates no harmful by-products and contributes actively to the reduction of global warming. PV systems are very safe and highly reliable. The estimated lifetime of a PV system is 30 years, and modules can be recycled because they are made with materials and components which can be reused. Systems are almost maintenance-free and easy to install.

There are still some places in the world where electricity is not available and this problem is now being solved with PV systems, which can bring electricity to remote rural areas on the cheap. A PV system can be aesthetically integrated into the roofs or façade of a building. The energy pay-back time of a PV module, meaning the time it takes for it to produce as much energy as it required to be made, is very short.

Photovoltaic cells are used in many everyday electric appliances, including watches, calculators, toys, battery chargers and sun roofs for automobiles. Other applications include power for outdoor services such as water sprinklers, road signs, lighting and phone boxes. The use of PV energy to supply electricity for remote applications is very common in the telecommunications field, especially for linking rural areas to the rest of the network. Repeater stations for mobile telephones powered by PV hybrid systems also have a large potential. Other applications include power for traffic signals, marine navigation aids, security phones, remote lighting, highway signs and waste water treatment plants. The Nellis Solar Power Plant, which is being built at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, USA, will be a large-scale PV plant, and is expected to generate in excess of 25 million KWh of electricity annually and supply more than 25 percent of the power used at the base.

Developing technology is presenting us with any alternatives for a more livable country and world. If photovoltaic energy projects can be put into wide use in our country, future generations will be able to live in a safe and secure environment.


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