The solar sell - Cover story

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Will solar power make a significant contribution to the world’s energy needs? By Graham Pitcher.

Consensus amongst the scientific community is that the world’s climate is changing. Those with what may be seen as a dissenting opinion claim this is part of the natural cycle. However, the majority apportion blame for climate change to our seemingly insatiable appetite for energy. Whether it’s electricity to power the array of devices in our homes or the various forms of energy which power our vehicles, CO2 generation is contributing to – or even creating – the ‘greenhouse effect’. The more CO2 we generate, the worse things become and a section of the scientific world is raising the spectre of a ‘tipping point’, beyond which the Earth will be unable to recover. So it’s no surprise to discover that scientists and engineers alike are looking urgently for new ways to provide the power which we all desire. One option being presented is a return to nuclear power. While this might reduce CO2 emissions – and opponents are not convinced about this – the approach creates another problem: disposing of radioactive waste. Another strand of research is looking to capitalise on renewable energy resources. Here, developers hope to capture the energy available in the wind, the tides and the Earth itself. But a major theme in renewable energy is to harness the power of the Sun.