Almost everyone predicts that solar energy is going to be the main source of energy in the future. I don’t disagree. However, instead of solar panels, solar fuels.
Despite all the benefits, the fact is, the initial costs make solar panels limited to certain people.
In Nigeria for example, a 1.2 million Naira setup will not take you off the grid, and very few people have 1.2 million sitting around.
You could say all the benefits and point out that in the long run, it is cheaper, but that does not give me the 1.2 million initial cost.
What we need
Solar energy has to be able to be purchased in unit quantities. It has to be cheap enough, that I can purchase just enough to last me for a couple hours.
It has to key into existing systems. If the cost of this getting to every household is too high, it may never get to them.
Here are some examples;
- Fuel cell cars and busses are good, but have limited refueling stations.
- Electric cars are good, but have limited recharging stations.
In the same way, for solar energy to be used in every day transportation, it should key into the already existing liquid fuel distribution systems.
Also, it should be compatible with petrol engines, because it will take 1-2 decades for most current cars to be phased out of transportation (in Nigeria this will be a lot longer).
What are solar fuels?
It is a general term to refer to various attempts to make liquid fuels using solar energy.
For now, most are entirely experimental and we are still some way from making any of these processes economically viable.
However, once that is achieved, the world will truly transition to solar energy as it’s primary energy source.
A world powered by solar fuels
I envision companies and governments investing in plants to make solar fuels.
These plants will then distribute these fuels using the already existing systems used today.
Cars will still fill up at gas stations, generator sets will still use liquid fuels, and life goes on.
Unlike panels, solar fuels do not force us to change the systems that our lives and cities are built on and this is why solar fuels are the true future of solar energy.