Thomas M Kraft PhD year 4 Queen’s University  Department of Chemistry

Thomas M Kraft PhD Year 4 Queen’s University Department of Chemistry

Why do Europeans love solar energy? It seems as if it is combination of several factors, including their desire to clean up the world, their need for alternative energy resources, and their governments’ innovative evolution.  This was quite poignant at the 29th European photovoltaic solar energy conference and exhibition (EU PVSEC) which was held in Amsterdam from September 22-26, 2014.  As usual, this large conference, dedicated to solar energy, did not disappoint and attracted 9000 exhibition attendees as well as 3000 conference delegates.  It was remarkable to bear witness to the unity of thousands of highly motivated scientists and business leaders in their pursuit of low cost, efficient photovoltaic energy on a continent that has 3% of all its electricity generated directly by the sun. As the conference progressed, it became clear that “we weren’t there for what solar energy is, but for what it will become” (H. Kamp).

Picture from Thomas BlogThe willingness of Europeans to decrease their dependence on fossil fuel derived energy in a realistic manner, was address by Henk Kamp (Dutch minister of economic affairs). Kamp stressed the importance of linking science and policy in an effective manner to not only achieve economic gains but a better society. By decreasing the cost and increasing the market hold of PV technologies in the energy sector, it will be a step in the right direction to bring electricity to the 1.2 billion people who lack access to energy. However, as Mr. Kamp addressed the altruistic side of solar, he also addressed the economic challenges in competing with traditional energy resources.  As a politician responsible for his country’s economics, he explained that solar energy can be profitable.  Minister Kamp described that in 2013, the Dutch solar energy sector saw a turnover of one billion euros and that Dutch technologies were being distributed throughout the world.  With this in mind, the future of PV does not seem so bleak, but how can it compete with cheap oil and shale gas from North America?  I think the answer is evolution and unity.

We must strive to incorporate photovoltaic technologies in our daily lives and not solely try to eliminate fossil fuel consumption.  This is possible as the beauty of PV is quickly becoming a reality, with highly efficient concentrator devices and transparent third generation modules are being fit into windows.  Since the dawn of PV at Bell Labs on March 6, 1953, photovoltaic energy has come a long way in 61 years.  Even though, PV has an uphill challenge to be universally accepted, I believe the Europeans have set a great example for the rest of the world.  So now I ask, can the world connect to the sun?