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Solar energy: a sunny outlook for Russia and the world
22.03.07
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna)

Human civilization will face bleak prospects unless it finds alternative sources of energy to replace dwindling hydrocarbon deposits. Fortunately, the sun can provide the world with an unlimited amount of electricity through solar batteries.
A recent conference organized by the Science and High Technologies committee of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, discussed legislative support for the national photovoltaic power industry.
Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alfyorov, vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who chaired the conference, said Russia needs substantial legislative support in order to even begin to set up a domestic consumer market. “This will encourage the market’s development, as well as expand scientific research and production,“ Alfyorov told RIA Novosti.
“We have good scientists and long-standing traditions in this field and have managed to preserve some operational research centers and production facilities in spite of serious problems,” Alfyorov said. He added that the world is now focusing on solar power because the sun, a mere yellow dwarf among the 150 billion G-2 class stars in the Galaxy, is a natural thermonuclear reactor saturating the Earth with tremendous amounts of energy. According to Alfyorov, environmentally friendly converted solar energy has the potential to solve humankind’s energy problems for centuries to come and eliminate the heat pollution caused by the rapidly expanding global power industry.
The photovoltaic solar power conversion method, considered by scientists as the most promising long-term option, has been around for quite a while now. The first selenium photo cells were developed in the United Kingdom in 1876. In 1938, a laboratory headed by Abram Ioffe, member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, invented the first solar cell. Ioffe believed that solar batteries on roofs could be used to generate electricity. Unfortunately, this idea did not catch on because Russia did not suffer from a lack of natural resources.
Germany, Japan and the United States are now implementing ambitious “solar roof” programs encompassing, respectively, 100,000, 200,000 and one million buildings. Many other countries are following suit.
It may seem like a paradox, but Russia, the world’s northernmost country, can also use solar batteries to generate large amounts of electricity. Professor Vyacheslav Andreyev of the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute in St. Petersburg told the conference that he had analyzed average insolation levels in many Russian regions and in southern Europe. According to Andreyev, many parts of Russia get more solar energy than the most sun-drenched European regions. For instance, the Zabaikalye (Trans-Baikal) Region gets more solar energy than Spain.
But some skeptical government officials believe Russia has no need for solar power because it abounds in other natural resources. “Indeed, Russia has a lot of natural resources,” Alfyorov said. He was quite surprised, however, when Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said that solar power was good for resource-dependent countries, but that Russia did not face this problem. “A hi-tech economy is a key to genuine independence,” Alfyorov said.
Solar energy, which is expected to compensate for dwindling oil and gas deposits, now accounts for only two gigawatts of global power generation. But the situation will change by the end of the century, when solar batteries will provide 66% of all power in the world. The European Commission said photovoltaic elements will generate 150 gigawatts of electricity a year by 2030.
Japan, Europe and the United States are the main players on the solar power market, with each country implementing national programs. The Russian solar power program also requires a similar government effort.
“State support is essential because solar power systems remain quite expensive,” Alfyorov said. He added that low-density solar energy flows are a major drawback.
The problem could be solved, he said, by focusing solar radiation; this would make it possible to reduce the cost of expensive semiconductors and to boost the efficiency of semiconducting converters.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. –0-