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Has the Real Power of Solar Energy Arrived?

Over the next decade, the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects renewable energy to account for 80% of the world's power consumption. According to trends tracked by the IEA, solar energy will likely exceed coal-burning energy by 2025.

Today, primary sources of energy are broken down into fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum,) nuclear energy (fission, heat energy,) and renewable energy (solar, wind, hydropower.) 

The most recent research from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that out of 100.2 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), 80% comes from fossil fuels, 8% is nuclear energy, and 11% is renewable energy. But experts predict that renewable energy will take over the market in the coming years.

“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets,” said Fatih Birol, MSc, PhD, who is   executive director of the IAE. “Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.” Mr. Birol made his remarks in the IAE’s World Energy Outlook for 2020.

Solar power is becoming more efficient and less expensive to install, according to the World Energy Outlook. Yet, in this current year, fossil fuels have still dominated the energy industry due to increases in domestic oil and gas production. This is largely a result of new technologies that rely on fracking and horizontal drilling. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal burning can emit sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxide and more into the atmosphere, which contribute to respiratory illness, lung disease, and a range of neurological and developmental diseases. 

According to the EIA, solar energy is beneficial to human health and safety, but it protects the Earth’s natural resources because reusable energy, as opposed to fuels being pumped and mined from the Earth, cause little, if any, harm to the environment.

Fewer greenhouse gases means people develop fewer respiratory and cardiovascular problems, while less pollutants in the air reduce harmful gases as well as the number of people dealing with chronic bronchitis. 

The IEA has also studied the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on renewable energy sources. The percentage of renewable energy in the global electricity supply during the first quarter of 2020 reached almost 28%, an increase from 26% during the same period in 2019.

However, this growth is expected to slow during the rest of 2020, due to a lack of governmental support and investments in renewable energy. With governmental help, the IEA believes solar energy sources can get back on track for 2021. 

Lara Becker is a Medical Daily intern and a senior at The College of New Jersey studying Journalism/ Professional Writing and Communication Studies.

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