Posts

Clean Environment Concept

America’s National Science Academy Proposes $100 Million Geoengineering Research Program 

The nation’s national science academy recently claimed that the US should establish a multi-million-dollar research program specifically for looking into solar geoengineering. The group recently released a report that recommends the country put between $100-200 million into a five year program that would work to understand the “feasibility of interventions to dim the sun, the risk of harmful unintended consequences, and how such technology could be governed in an ethical way.”

The National Academies of Science (NAS) said that cutting fossil fuels emissions should be the nation’s number one priority when it comes to tackling climate change. However, the lack of action from our world leaders within the past decade has created an even more damaged environment to improve. 

The report claims that there are three types of solar geoengineering that would help heat escape the Earth’s atmosphere and thus cool the planet overall: “injecting tiny reflective particles into the stratosphere to block sunlight; using the particles to make low-lying clouds over the oceans more reflective; and thinning high-altitude cirrus clouds. Major volcanic eruptions are already known to cool the climate by pumping particles high into the atmosphere.

Embed from Getty Images

Geoengineers are already arguing that the impact of climate change is already so large that every option must be explored if the Earth wants any chance at surviving the next century. Professor Marcia McNutt is the president of the Academy who recently spoke to the media about the importance of this overdue research. 

“Given the urgency of the climate crisis, solar geoengineering needs to be studied further. But just as with advances in fields such as artificial intelligence or gene editing, science needs to engage the public to ask not just can we, but should we? Questions of governance – who will decide to deploy this intervention and for how long – were as important as the scientific questions.”

Professor Chris Field of Stanford University was the chair of the committee that wrote the report, who claimed that “the US solar geoengineering program should be all about helping society make more informed decisions regarding the planet.”

“Based on all of the evidence from social science, natural science, and technology, this research program could either indicate that solar geoengineering should not be considered further, or conclude that it warrants additional effort.”

Embed from Getty Images

The report claimed that “a reasonable initial investment for this solar geoengineering research program is within a range of $100-200 million total over five years. The program would be a small fraction of the US budget for climate change research and should not shift the focus from other projects.”

“The program should be designed to move forward in a socially responsible manner with researchers following a code of conduct, research catalogued in a public registry, and public engagement undertaken. Outdoor experiments should be subject to appropriate governance including impact assessments,” according to the report. 

The academy claims that the program should also include scientific research regarding the possible climate outcomes that geoengineering could have on society and its many ecosystems. “Social dimensions cited for research included domestic and international conflict and cooperation, and justice, ethics, and equity.”

Professor Gernot Wagner of New York University said: “The report’s focus on research and research governance is important for one simple reason: the current discussion is – and should be – all about research into solar geoengineering, certainly not about deploying the technology, where, if anything, a firm moratorium would be appropriate.”

Solar Panels

UK Company Using Material That Could Be “Game-Changer” For Solar Power 

Solar energy has been one of the biggest innovations within the past few decades. Now, a company in the UK is using a group of materials called perovskites to create the “next generation of solar panels.” The company claims that the materials could make solar power twice as efficient as it is now, and it’s flexible enough to wrap around entire buildings. 

Solar energy as a power source first appeared in the 1950’s in New Jersey. At the time Bell Labs created a silicon-based solar panel that was expensive, but effective enough to turn 6% of sunlight into electricity powerful enough to power everyday electrical equipment. As time went on the cost of solar panels went down but the use of silicon remained. Today, panels can turn up to 22% of the light emitted from the sun into power. 

Embed from Getty Images

Oxford PV is the company that’s based out of the University of Oxford that initially began using perovskites for solar power back in 2018. The company found that when they coated the silicone used in the development of solar panels with perovskite, they achieved 28% efficiency in terms of converting solar energy into electricity. The company believes, however, the technology can get that percentage up to 40%. 

So what exactly does this mean in terms of the future of solar energy? As solar cells improve in efficiency, less solar panels are needed to power certain buildings, meaning costs for solar panels will decrease, and the amount of land, labor, and equipment needed to operate the panels would also decrease and simplify. This would mean more average individuals can begin implementing this type of technology in their own homes, and not just individuals of a higher working class who can afford it. Henry Snaith is the co-founder of Oxford PV and recently spoke to the press about the company’s major breakthrough.

“If we want to make it that all new power generation is solar photovoltaics, then we need to keep driving the price down. One way to do that is to keep pushing the efficiency or the power output of the module up, and this is where perovskites really come into play.”

Embed from Getty Images

Perovskite was initially discovered as a material in the 1800’s, but Oxford PV uses a synthetic version that’s made from more inexpensive materials that are abundant in the Earth’s crust. This way the cost of material remains low, while other companies attempting to use the same materials are using different more expensive variations. The perk of perovskite is that it works monumentally better in the shade or on cloudy days when compared to regular panels with just silicone at the base. The goal, according to Snaith, is to replace silicone entirely with perovskite. 

“In the coming decades, all perovskite solar coatings promise to raise efficiencies even further, reduce the weight and shipping cost of solar equipment. As the technology develops, perovskite could be sprayed or rolled onto flexible surfaces.”

Oxford PV will begin producing solar cells made from perovskite on top of silicone early next year in a newly acquired factory in Germany. The company is estimating that the panels could save homeowners currently using solar panels up to $1,000 on the purchase and installation of these newer panels.