Today, world energy production remains dominated by fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Traditional energy sources like these face a difficult future, one of the pressures on all sides creating an environment that may shift resources to alternative types of energy production. Countries that do not have their own reserves of fossil fuel see their security and abilities to operate on the international stage hampered by a need to keep fossil fuel flows coming into the country. In the past, OPEC nations have resorted to market manipulation to gain political ends. Russia threatens oil exports to unfriendly neighbors frequently.
On the consumer end, fossil fuel consumption could wane in major developed nations. A growing number of car buyers are opting for hybrid or electric cars out of environmental concerns. The trend is only expected to grow. Car manufacturers themselves, like Ford and a number of Chinese car companies, see electric as the only future for the automobile that has any sustainability.
The challenges that fossil fuels face come from all fronts. Governments as well are showing increasing support for alternative energy such as solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind power, and biomass, with the money to back up their country’s power resource transition. The main difference between fossil fuels and their alternatives is that fossil fuels are finite. Someday we know that if we keep using them then the Earth will run out of oil, coal, and natural gas.
Solar power has the lead today in the arena of alternative power. It is the most rapidly growing renewable source of electricity. It has a number of advantages over all other forms of electricity.
First and foremost, adopting solar power reduces dependence on fossil fuels. Only a handful of countries have vast fossil fuel reserves. Any country can adopt solar. In fact, knowing that they will one day run out of oil reserves, Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s major oil producers, is building a massive solar power array.
Solar today isn’t the solar of yesterday. Solar has evolved to where it can work efficiently at producing power in any environment. Though the amount of daylight a region gets varies greatly around the world, a properly designed array can reliably provide a consistent supply of power over a long period of time.
Solar power has a low environmental impact. Once constructed, a solar array requires only maintenance, and does not require a continuous input of raw material like coal.
In areas where solar may not be able to produce a consistent power supply on its own, it can be augmented by existing fossil fuel plants as the need for power in a community grows.
Solar can be personal too. Solar panels don’t need to be designed into vast arrays out in the desert. They can be installed directly on the customer’s property, usually the roof. This provides a flexibility that contributes to solar being a power anyone can adopt.
A growing number of countries are offering incentives to residents and power producers who adopt solar and other forms of renewable energy. Even their own civil engineers are on board. Planners whose job it is to make sure a growing population will have sufficient access to electricity see the benefit of adopting resources that don’t require thinking about when the resource will run out due to accelerating population growth. This factor alone puts solar and other renewables on track to overtake fossil fuels in the 21st Century.