Plants Powering Solar Energy

DREW AVOLESE

Staff Writer

Plants are the best at collecting solar energy. They collect at roughly 100 percent efficiency, meaning that for every photon of solar energy collected, a plant can produce an equal number of electrons. Researchers from the University of Georgia decided to exploit this method in order to improve the efficiency of solar panels. Electricity can be generated from plants by commandeering the photosynthesis process. Scientists then alter the proteins inside a plant cell’s thylakoids, which store solar energy, and intercept electrons through a carbon nanotube that uses the energy before it can be turned into sugar. The process resulted in a small amount of energy created but still is more efficient than the previous methods, according to the scientists. Solar panels used to operate at twelve to seventeen percent efficiency. The scientists believe that there is a future in solar power using this method and could one day compete with solar cells.

In 2010, the Santa Barbara School District approved a plan to place solar panels on the roofs of San Marcos High School. However, the project has been postponed until classroom rooftops can be repaired and resealed.

The closer a process is to what exists in nature,” said Robert Goettler, AP Environmental Science teacher. “The less toxicity will occur and more sustainable it will be.”

As fossil fuels become more rare, an efficient, green energy source will be necessary and solar power is the most viable along those lines. This means that higher efficiency in the energy-gathering process is necessary for the nation to agree to this power source.

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