Solar Energy in Malaysia, Why Not?

Most of the university students in Malaysia are having a two-month semester breaks now where we could have gone for a short trip at the beach or a vacation to some heritage places. However, I am still sitting at home watching the laptop screen playing computer games instead of hanging out with friends somewhere close to nature. I did go out, to shopping centres, or anywhere with air-condition. We have to admit that the scorching sun is a major turnoff for those who do want to go out (of course there are people who are willing to brave through the sunlight), but the photon particles emitted by the sun is something worth harvested especially in tropical country like Malaysia in order to reduce electricity generation using fossil fuels.

The estimated amount of electricity that can be generated in Malaysia. This result was calculated using the solar calculator of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of  U.S. Department of Energy.

 

This is how a basic solar panel work: photons from sunlight hit and knock off the electrons from the solar panel, which moves through the wire to reach the battery or the appliance that it powers, and then return to the solar panel to displace the electrons that were lost previously. It is like a moving current being pushed by sunlight continuously as long as sunlight is available. The stronger the sunlight, the greater the electricity that can be produced, which depends on the efficiency and the surface area of the solar panel as well. For countries located at the equator like Malaysia, we are at the most strategic location to harvest energy from the sun. By using the solar calculator, it is estimated that 4 570 kWh of electricity can be generated by a solar panel with an area of 25 square metre and an efficiency of 16% (this efficiency might sound low, but it is actually the normal efficiency for a ordinary solar panel). This 4 570 kWh of electricity can light up 4 570 of 100W light bulb for 10 hours, to make it easier to understand, an average of 12.5 light bulbs can be powered for 10 hours per day per year. Well, this amount of energy might not be enough for a city dweller, but it can certainly displaced some of the energy we obtained from fossil fuels.

Rooftop solar panel. (photo taken from Green Solar Cafe website)

 
Recently, a new law has been established in France to require every new building constructed in a commercial zone should have rooftops partially covered by solar panels or plants. This is a good start to make solar energy into something common that we won’t go like ‘whoa you have a solar panel at your home?’ (France is a temperate country!). Since the rooftops are most likely to lie barren on our houses, why don’t we make good use of the spaces and harvest some sunlight?

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