Korea turns to solar modules and marine plants for alternative energy source
Amid peaking power usage in Korea in light of record high temperatures... companies and researchers are increasingly looking to renewable and sustainable energy - an alternative energy source.
Our Kim Jiyeon takes a closer look at some of those efforts... for our IT&Science Front this week. The scorching summer heat can easily force anyone to turn on the air conditioning cannot help but turn on the air conditioner,... despite concerns of astronomical electricity bills and the impact done on the environment.
That's why there is a rising demand for cleaner and more sustainable energy sources than those derived from fossil fuels.
In response to such demand, Hanwha Q Cell factory of Eumsung, an hour-and-a-half car ride from Seoul, specializes in making solar modules, with a production capacity of 1-point-5 gigawatts per year. "That's equivalent to 44-million panels or the amount of electricity used by 2-point-5 million people. Some of that is used to provide electricity to local households, while the rest is exported overseas, mainly to the U.S. and China."
Each solar module contains 60 or 72 solar batteries,... depending on whether it's for residential or industrial use.
Hanwha Q Cell says its highly efficient modules have helped the company reach operating profits of one-million U.S. dollars for the first time in 2015.
Its modules have energy efficiency of 19-and-a-half-percent,... one of the highest in the world and which set a global record in December. "We coat the surface of the module with a layer of aluminum in order to prevent voltaic loss. This way each module is able to produce more than 340 watts of electricity at once."
The company has similar module plants in China and Malaysia,... while a solar energy-based power plant is being built in Austin, Texas over in the U.S., and which is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, a team from Daegu University say they've come up with a way to produce hydrogen from marine plants,... after six years of research. "Since the Korean peninsula is surrounded by three seas, I thought it would be more sustainable to find an energy source from marine vegetation rather than from plants and trees living on land. I thought it would be an interesting subject for research as not many studies have been done on aquatic plants as a source of energy."
The professor says there were a lot of challenges ahead since marine plants are mainly composed of glucose,... which is difficult to decompose to produce hydrogen.
However, the team was able to achieve that by using a cocktail of fungi to take the plant apart instead of the usual method of inserting a single type of microorganism into it.
The professor says that despite such breakthrough, there still a lot to do to mass produce the technology,... including finding sustainable methods of cultivation as well as more research in other related sectors such as metabolism engineering.