Have you ever closed your eyes and wondered what a solar utopia would look like? If you are like me, you would think of sandy beaches, a lot of sun, a healthy native population. Maybe you wouldn’t see solar collectors or solar panels in such obvious places. You need not dream any more. The three tiny islands that comprise the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo, have recently achieved something no other place in the world has accomplished: complete and total freedom from fossil fuels.
Archive for the ‘Solar Around the World’ Category
I know that I may be a little behind the times, but I just watched James Cameron’s blockbuster smash “Avatar” with my kids on the “small” screen, and was surprised to see just how many “Going Green” messages there were in this futuristic movie. You may remember that the only application for solar energy used to be on the Space Station–or the Mars Rover. The technology hasn’t changed much in 25 years, but what has changed is the cost of photovoltaic, which now allows homeowners and business owners throughout the world to use solar energy on Earth. You don’t have to have a futuristic home to place solar panels on your roof. Any view of the future requires the adoption of solar or other renewable energy.
Ever since skyscrapers started to capture our imagination, they have been recognized as a city’s symbol of economic power and financial might. They have not, however, ever been accused of being particularly energy efficient. Skyscrapers are notoriously huge energy consumers, which is why we were impressed by some recent efforts for building owners to try to reduce the carbon footprint of their massive buildings. A skyscraper with high-power rooftop solar panels and several floors’ solar glass can run as a vertical solar power station. Imagine, if all skyscrapers and high-rises become solar buildings, what will Manhattan be? At that time, Manhattan will become one of the largest solar power stations in the world, redefining the city’s symbol! Yes, solar skyscrapers are on the rise.
We changed gears somewhat this week and attended the Sixth Annual Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) being held here in Washington D.C. Some of the manufacturers whose products we represent at SolarTown such as Voltaic Systems with its solar bags and Sun Danzer with its solar refrigerators were there to show how their products have an important role to play in helping countries develop and saving lives. You don’t believe that solar fridges can keep critical medicines safe. Well, think again, as this solar vaccine refrigerator has been pre-qualified by the World Health Organization and has undergone rigorous testing. There are many other applications of solar energy to the developing world such as solar lights and solar battery chargers, which can provide a lifeline to those living off the grid throughout the world.
My family installed a solar energy system in rural Brazil twelve years ago. A little bit of social consciousness and a lot of economic reasons persuaded us that solar energy was the way to go for our home in Minas Gerais in the interior of Brazil. This is our first-hand account of how and why we went solar. Access to the house was and still is restricted to one dirt road. At the time, there was no electricity, since power lines stopped several kilometers away from us. For the first two years, kerosene lamps lit our lives at night. The electricity grid was not and has not been extended, despite our good efforts. In 1999, we decided to buy the property and install home solar panels to replace the kerosene lamps, radically transforming our electricity consumption there. For twelve years, solar energy has provided us with reliable electricity in the temperate rainforest in Brazil. Lack of infrastructure, a need for electricity and a desire to do the right thing toward the community convinced us to install solar energy in this rural and remote place…and the cherry on top is that we have never and will never receive an electricity bill in the mail.
Last week, I took my kids to watch the shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The launch was supposed to be the final launch of Endeavour and the second to last launch of the shuttle before the fleet is retired this summer. Mindful of the vagaries of the weather and the unpredictability of technical problems, we waited until the last minute to make our non-refundable reservations. We may not have seen the shuttle launch, but we did see some pretty impressive displays of how NASA is using solar energy here on EarthWe did not hide our disappointment at not seeing the Shuttle blast off into the cosmos. By all accounts, that is a remarkable experience for those who have had the privilege of watching men and women reach for the stars. We may have to settle for the next generation of space shuttles. We were pleased, however, to see how NASA is utilizing the rays of the sun not only in the cosmos, but here on Earth. And if it is good enough for NASA, then solar is good enough for the rest of us.
Look at this ger from Mongolia. It’s about 18 feet in diameter and about 8 ½ feet high at its apex. And it has precisely one more solar panel than the White House. You probably have seen the latest news stories about how President Obama has so far politely declined to restore solar to the White House. The nomads living in gers in Mongolia may be able to teach the President a thing or two about solar energy. Now I know that Obama has not taken to this idea very well—but here’s a new idea. Why not set up a ger on the White House grounds right next to Michelle’s organic garden? SolarTown will donate a solar panel to place on top of the ger. That way, the White House will have at least as many solar panels as the nomads living on the steppe of Mongolia.
We all mourn the loss of life in Haiti. The numbers are staggering. Possibly as many as 200,000 people died in the earthquake. And for the roughly 2 million who remain homeless, the challenges are just beginning. Rebuilding will take many years—and that is just to restore Haiti to the impoverished mess that it was before the earthquake. As assistance pours in, many opportunities arise to help people with basic needs by going solar. For those living without electricity in Haiti and elsewhere, solar can be a lifeline. Look at the broad range of solar products available on the market today and you will find what will be a lifeline not only to the earthquake victims in Haiti, but also to vast populations in the developing world.
Congratulations to Team Germany for winning the 2009 Solar Decathlon. With a massive 11.1 kW array, and thin film on the walls, there was no one who could match their net metering prowess. Illinois finished second; California, third, and Ontario fourth. Make no mistake about it. Germany won based on the strength of its PV array. It finished in the top five of the other nine categories, except for communications. On net metering, it received 150—out of a total of 150 points. This is the photo of the winning entry.