Solar Energy

I am sure solar energy requires no introduction. Today India is being rocked by issues like the Nuclear proliferation treaty, coal scam etc. These are primarily because of the impending energy crisis that the world will come face to face with soon enough. And India is going to be one of the worst affected as it is one of the most densely populated countries. We recently got a glimpse of what might happen when fossil fuels get exhausted when there was a massive grid failure in the northern parts of the country. It was because of the fact that some of the states drew more than excess power that caused the generators to slow down thus disrupting the entire grid. It exposed the country’s dependence on fossil fuels only and the impending need to promote renewable energy sources. Sadly our policy makers are not too concerned with tapping alternative energy sources while all efforts to do so(nuclear power) is met with opposition for petty politics.
However there are plenty of other sources as well. While hydel power is a prospective source of energy in India it is consequential because it can damage fragile ecosystems and displace entire populations. Then naturally Solar energy seems to be the logical choice.
So what’s stopping them from adopting solar energy?
Two things:
a) Cost
b) Erratic supply
a) Cost
Yes like any other new product in the market costs determine how effectively it can be implemented. The biggest problem with solar energy is that it is very expensive. Yes it takes about 2000$ just to install solar Photovoltaic(PV) modules plus even in the well developed sunny states of the U.S. the cost of solar cells is about 0.11$ / kWh. Now that really is expensive if you compare it in the Indian currency.
b) Erratic supply
Yes it is true that India has a huge amount of solar radiation input being in the tropics and everything working out to be fine India should be having more than enough energy to compensate for the energy needs of the country. BUT we should also try to remember that India is a place where the monsoons cover the Indian skies with clouds for a considerable part of the year too. This does deter the energy supply and this would have been a cause of great distress among the millions as energy demands are high and an uninterrupted supply is necessary in many parts of the country. Plus supply during the night time would be a huge problem as there is no effective way to store energy obtained during the day.
But what exactly is  a photovoltaic cell?
A photovoltaic cell uses photons from the sun’s energy spectrum and converts it into kinetic energy of electrons.

It has an antireflective coating at the top to remove any sort to prevent loss of solar energy by reflection. As can be seen from the diagram, The photons strike the electrons at the junction of the p type and n type semiconductors to create a voltage difference. This voltage causes a current to flow in the closed circuit.
If solar energy needs no investment other than maintenance to continue then why should the initial high cost be a problem?
Well the problem comes from the fact that efficiency of solar PV cells is very small. Typical energy efficiencies are about 8 to 10% today. In fact all the major corporations of the world are working on increasing efficiencies as you read this article.

As you can see the technology used increases efficiency a lot. But what is not mentioned here is that the cost of increasingly complex technology is quite high. Efficiency determines the fate of new technology as solar pv cells are no exception.
But that does not mean that solar energy does not hold promise. For it has been calculated that the amount of solar radiation the earth receives at the sea level is more than enough to supply 8 times the energy requirements of the World’s population.