Solar power technology is an exciting and developing field of study. Articles in both scientific and mainstream news frequently highlight its latest advancements. Notable events over just the last year include discoveries of new coating options, structural designs, storage methods, and material choices which all work toward creating solar cells that are more efficient as well as more affordable.
This level of interest in alternative energy should come as no surprise. In the world of today, many people and communities are finding themselves concerned about the condition of the environment. For this reason, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed.
This scientific body focuses on the risks involved in anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change. Specifically, it has the task of assessing those risks as well as determining methods of addressing them. A formidable amount of science academies, societies, and other scientific organizations support the conclusions of the IPCC.
These concerns for the environment have encouraged steps to be taken on an international level to stabilize the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. One such step was the creation of the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in the year 2005. This protocol established legally binding commitments for the reduction of harmful emissions.
The treaty uses a cap and trade system with carbon credits and emissions quotas. Nations which fall under their emissions quotas may sell their credits. There are also opportunities for earning credits with different development projects. Such projects often deal with alternative energies like solar power.
While over 180 countries have ratified the treaty, the United States only signed it. A statement given by President George W. Bush on why it was not being submitted for ratification cited the economy. Also mentioned was the fact that China had signed it with many exemptions. At that time, China was the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States. Its exemptions were not viewed as being in line with the protocol.
The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012. Discussions about the next period have been ongoing. The role of the United States in the next treaty remains to be seen.
Of course, the U.S. does recognize the need for change. While President Bush did not attempt to ratify the agreement, he clarified that it wasn't due to a lack of support for the principles of the Kyoto Protocol.
All of this has set the tone for great environmental achievements to be made between countries. As the top carbon dioxide emitters, agreements between U.S. and China stand to benefit the rest of the world. Both nations are part of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
Recent news has highlighted agreements made between the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEE) and the American National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). These are two of the largest solar power research institutes in the world. Both have signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU.
Under this agreement, Chinese and American scientists will focus on photovoltaic (PV) battery and component testing. It also emphasizes that research and development of technology will be shared. This allows for quicker and more effective communication between the researching groups.
The vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jiang Mianheng, has said that the deal represents great headway being made between the two institutes, and has great hopes for solar energy development. The NREL Web site points out that the MOU expands collaboration between the world's largest economies and energy consumers. Events such as these are smaller gestures within the greater movements that define a political as well as physical climate of change.