Yardley Voice – Going Green Solar Column – August 2012
by Mark Bortman
Sustainability, return on investment, energy independence and reduction of greenhouse gases are all great benefits of solar energy. Here, in Bucks County, we have the luxury of being able to think about such long-range issues.
Many people around the world have more immediate needs.
Imagine living in a hut where the only source of light is a kerosene lantern. Imagine having to spend several hours each day foraging for firewood. Solar energy helps to solve these problems, too.
In Africa and other parts of the world, billions of people live without electricity. When the sun goes down, their only source of light is kerosene lamps. Unfortunately, accidents with these lamps burn down homes and schools. The burning kerosene causes thick, black smoke – indoor air pollution kills more people than malaria.
Worst of all, the kerosene is expensive.
Small, inexpensive solar panels combined with efficient light bulbs can easily and effectively solve these problems. Enter Solar-Aid (www.solar-aid.org).
This organization has an audacious goal – they aim to eradicate kerosene lanterns from Africa by the end of the decade. Using the power of the sun, they give people a boost out of poverty and an improved standard of living.
On another front, it is estimated that half of the world’s population uses an open fire as their primary source of energy for cooking. This means lots of hard (and dangerous) work scavenging for wood, dung, coal or charcoal as well as respiratory diseases (not to mention deforestation, loss of wildlife habitat and global dimming – all problems that take a back seat to getting food for your family).
Harnessing the power of the sun with a solar cooker provides an immediate, inexpensive solution. As with the solar lights, the benefits of solar cookers include health as well as economics. As it says on the Solar Cookers International website (www.solarcookers.org), “solar cooking is more than a choice – it is a blessing.”
It is relief from having to walk miles to collect wood or spend much of a meager income on fuel. It is relief from smoky cooking fires that irritate eyes and lungs.
We in the United States count on solar energy to combat climate change and protect against rising energy prices in the future. In addition, people around the world are counting on solar energy’s clean, affordable means of lighting and cooking to provide immediate and tangible relief to their most pressing problems.