Welcome to Lesson 1! Here we start talking about solar energy and the value that societies derive from solar energy options, both past and present. Many of us who are extremely interested in solar energy have yet to learn about the deep, deep roots that the solar field has established over and over again in societies across the world. Additionally, we hear about amazing new developments in solar in the media, events that seem to be happening weekly (and sometimes daily)! We would like to generate a sense for why solar energy applications are growing now, why they did grow and sometimes bust in the past, and what we might expect in the future.
We will use examples from reading, images, and your own experience to explore the differences between:
- Solar Resource (light from the sun),
- Solar Energy Conversion Systems as designed technologies, and
- Solar Goods and Services delivered by the combination of 1 and 2 (for example, electricity as 'solar good' and shade as 'solar service').
This lesson will also explore some historical aspects of the solar field, where societies have found fuels (geofuels such as coal, petroleum products, natural gas, and the biofuels such as wood and manure) more challenging to access due to various constraints. We will see that, in fact, an inability to access fuels is often the driving force for solar development. In contrast, when access to fuels is unconstrained, we find that solar development tends to slow or cease in society. In this lesson, we will also see how emerging solar industries correlate with global shifts in perspective regarding anthropogenic global warming, sustainability, and energy security. Frameworks will be explored for policy and entrepreneurial responses to these new perspectives.