Sat, Aug 03, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Making the solar switch happen

By Lu Shyi-min 呂錫民

Following the advent of the industrial revolution, fossil fuels have been massively exploited and as a result, they are beginning to dry up.

Energy is vital to industrial development, as most energy is used in industrial processes. Data show that the industrial sector accounts for more than 50 percent of the world’s total energy consumption, mostly in construction, agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

The large volume of literature discussing the energy efficiency and emissions from industrial processes, electric motors, high-pressure air processes and boilers makes it clear that this sector uses a lot of energy.

As a result of environmental concerns and the rapid growth of oil prices, many businesses no longer favor using fossil fuels. Basically, the use of renewable energy systems in the industrial sector can lead to significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the reason traditional energy consumption should be shifted toward renewables, and it is imperative that the industrial sector develops and applies new energy technologies.

Among the sources of renewable energy, solar has received the most attention because it is the most attractive option for the industrial sector. Solar energy is inexhaustible and does not create noise or air pollution. Thus far, the industrial sector has harnessed solar energy through collectors, photovoltaic panels, trackers and giant mirrors among others.

The application of solar energy in industry can be divided into two categories: solar thermal energy and solar photovoltaic energy. Some common applications include heating water, producing steam, drying and dehydration procedures, preheating, concentration, pasteurization, sterilization, washing, cleaning, chemical reactions, industrial space heating, food, plastics, construction, the textile industry and even the commercial sector.

In the industrial sector, solar energy can be used as a source of power and directly in the industrial process itself. If the application is distinguished by whether any external power is involved, solar energy applications can be divided into passive and active systems.

Passive applications do not require external power and are mainly used in household water heaters. Active applications require external power and have a wider range of applications, including air conditioning, refrigeration, steam production and seawater desalination.

Solar energy systems are reliable and cost-effective, and their primary purpose in the industrial sector is to address energy sustainability issues. According to primary energy consumption data released by Shell, solar power generation will have increased significantly by 2030.

Renewable energy development experience shows that within the solar energy industry chain, smooth coordination among designers, engineers, developers, technical consultants, operations and maintenance personnel, and material suppliers is crucial to sustainable industrial development. However, government and community policy play the key role in making this happen.

Lu Shyi-min is a retired energy policy researcher at the Industrial Technology Research Institute’s Green Energy and Environment Laboratories.

Translated by Lin Lee-kai

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