You may have noticed over the last few years that TELUS World of Science has undergone extensive renovations. One of the new additions to the facility is a photovoltaic energy system (photovoltaic is a fancy name for solar energy) that converts sunlight to electrical energy. We use this electrical (and greener) energy to reduce our hydro consumption. You can see the photovoltaic panels attached to the outside of our building.
While this technology is a green way to harness the sun’s energy, it has not always been very environmentally friendly due to the large amount of fossil fuels used to manufacture these photovoltaic panels. In other words, scientists and engineers had to take out an “energy loan” of fossil fuels in order to develop and build this new and greener technology. However, it appears that it was a worthwhile risk, as a new study out of Stanford University has concluded that we now are starting to pay off the loan!
A study by Michael Dale and Sally Benson, both of Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), concluded that the electrical energy currently generated by all the photovoltaic panels around the world is now greater than the fossil fuel energy being used to manufacture the new panels. The study also finds that at the rate the photovoltaic industry is going, it will have fully paid off its energy debt sometime between 2015 and 2020. At that point, the photovoltaic industry will be considered energy positive.
If you are interested in exploring the science behind photovoltaic panels, then on your next visit to TELUS World of Science check out the exhibit “Solar Power” located in the Our World: BMO Sustainability Gallery on the first floor. You can also see some smaller photovoltaic cells embedded in the upper windows of the Eureka! Gallery on the second floor.
The study is available (for a fee) in the current edition of Environmental Science & Technology but a great (free) article can be found at Stanford News.
If you are interested in learning more about one part of the TELUS World of Science solar photovoltaic system then visit Future Energy. Watch a video about the installation process and monitor the electrical output currently being generated by our system.