Team 6 (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), Topic 3: What is the best individual solution to meeting the world’s growing energy demand?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012: 4:25 PM
Lecture Hall, Floor Two (Knoxville Convention Center)
Global energy demand is estimated to increase by 39% over the next 30 years, with the majority of growth occurring in non-OECD countries. This strain on supply is exacerbated by pressure to address issues of resource depletion, environmental degradation, and climate change mitigation. Hence, global energy demand must be met by expansion of renewable energy production. Solar energy best meets the needs outlined, as it has significant potential for growth through technological innovation with limited environmental externalities and can be readily integrated into diverse and dynamic smart-grids. Solar energy currently accounts for less than 1% of global energy production and is one of the most expensive forms of electricity generation. However, it is one of the fastest growing energy markets. Technological innovations and economies of scale have substantially reduced solar energy production costs over the past 30 years; cost parity with other sources is expected within the next 20 years. Solar resources are virtually inexhaustible. Substantial future growth and expansion of solar energy conversion is possible with limited impact on resources and the environment, thus providing significant social and economic benefits with less inherent environmental burden compared with other energy sources. Solar energy conversion is achieved by a variety of diverse and rapidly developing technologies. Large photovoltaic arrays and concentrated solar power generators can be installed on marginal land to provide conventional high-output electricity. Smaller photovoltaic panels and direct solar units can be installed on buildings, improving the resilience, diversity, and capacity of the energy supply system.