Much is said and written about the urgent need to replace existing power sources with clean energy sources – and the debate is generally limited to how quickly. It becomes more urgent with the recent release of the United Nations report documenting and foretelling the enormous loss of species, related to habitat loss and climate change. But the value in solar power goes way beyond swapping sources in the evolving energy transition.
Solar energy systems are the most portable renewable energy option, and sunlight is prevalent and sufficient worldwide, with only a few exceptions. This makes it a perfect solution for both temporary and permanent use in locations without good electricity infrastructure, and especially regions with no infrastructure at all to transmit energy.
In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, small villages with no access to power are getting solar energy systems large enough to facilitate pumping clean, potable water from the nearest resource – not only providing massive health benefits but freeing up people to be more productive. It is also being used to power water treatment on a village scale to provide clean water that may not be otherwise available.
Beyond significantly improving health through clean water, small solar systems also are providing enough power to light homes at night and give children the chance to reach and learn from the outside world via the Internet.
Through solar power, a growing number of non-profits, micro-payments based businesses, and vehicle mounted roving power plants are more quickly improving the health and lifestyle on that continent than ever before. Most inspiring is the founding of Solar Sister – an organization in the region created by women entrepreneurs and designed to help more women by providing a year’s training on key skills to kick-start and grow a clean energy business.
Even in the prosperous United States, solar power is doing more than displacing coal and natural gas capacity one rooftop at a time.
Farmers with unproductive land are turning some plots into solar farms, delivering predictable incomes and helping to keep their remaining farming and ranching possible. Energy intensive organic farming complexes rely on solar energy systems as a way to be as environmentally low impact and carbon free as they possibly can.
Solar energy is also powering desalinating of water to turn seas into sources, as well as being used to power other technology requiring a lot of energy.
As a society we need to remember that the energy transition to clean, renewable sources in all aspects of life lets us impact more than humanity – we are doing what we can to impact life in all forms and species on the planet.