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I am a grade six student at Sir William Osler elementary, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This school term I will be conducting a scientific experiment for my class science fair. The topic I have selected is regarding the productivity of solar panels under different so-called “filters” of light. Such filters are transparent plastic sheets colored red, yellow, and blue. In my current project, I will be testing the productivity of my solar cells under such circumstances. The experiment will be carried out in 10 to 15 trials in the next three weeks.

I am writing this letter of inquiry in hope that I may have the opportunity to ask you several questions pertaining to my project as I have found it is in your area of expertise.

It is public knowledge that numerous solar energy companies have been known to purchase power batteries from other energy companies such as hydro, wind, and even coal in periods where their arrays aren’t producing much. What is your stance on the topic? Do you see a solution to this crisis?

Question Date: 2017-10-15
Answer 1:

Intermittency is certainly a problem for renewable energies like solar or wind. This is one of many reasons why battery research is so important.

Battery storage for solar is especially important because peak electricity generation does not always coincide with peak demand​, and you need some way to store the electricity generated​. Additionally, one must think about how to transport solar energy across variable distances to the consumer. ​Not all places have reliable exposure to the sun, and not all of those places necessarily have a high concentration of consumers.

​ While the amount of solar energy ​that hits the surface of the earth is more than enough to meet our current needs​, there are many engineering challenges t​o collect and transport that energy that still exist.

​ ​

Many of the hurdles facing renewable energy are also beyond the scope of science. A huge influencing factor is the competing market with coal and natural gas. While a lot of progress has been made to make solar cells cheaper, it can't necessarily react to changes in supply and demand for other energy forms. At the moment a large contributor to the adoption of alternative energies is via government subsidies, which can offset the upfront costs of installing​.

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