Solar power, which converts sunlight into energy, is beneficial for reducing our carbon footprint and has been accepted as a greener alternative for harvesting power. While harvesting solar energy has a carbon footprint of its own, research shows a solar panel’s carbon footprint is at least 20 times smaller than that of coal. As of late, solar energy is slowly transitioning from an alternative energy source to a preferred energy source.
For starters, the Australian government recently announced a $1.3 million grant to researchers who specialize in solar power. The grants, which are part of the government’s Skills Development Program, are an attempt on the part of the Australian government’s efforts to cut carbon emissions, since the country has the highest per capita in the developed world. Some estimates suggest that Australia emits around 28 metric tons of carbon per person per year and roughly represents about 1.5 percent of world emissions. Currently, according to a report by the Clean Energy Council, renewable energy sources power 4 million Australian homes while 77 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated by coal.
Resources minister Martin Ferguson said in an e-mailed statement:
“From techniques to improve the efficiency of solar cells made from low-cost and readily available organic materials, to investigating ways to optimize hybrid solar-diesel systems in remote areas using smart grids, the Skills Development Program is helping to drive Australian solar innovation.”
While Australia is funding research on solar energy with financial backing, villages in India that previously never had power are slowly getting power via solar energy, according to a recent piece in the New York Daily News. The island village of Baleswar in Assam’s Nalbari district in India has power courtesy of solar panels that harness solar energy. The panels, which are purchased in the nearby town of Nalbari, are used in 70 percent of the homes in the village–which has a population of 1,500.
Villager, and tailoring shop owner, Rekibul Rahman shares:
“We don’t have any power cuts, like our fellow brethren in the city! These solar panels are a common sight in our village, and in the nearby villages too. You will see them in front of shops and homes; the price of the panel depends on how much power you need.For instance, the panel that I have generates enough power through the day to charge the battery, which will in turn run a light and a fan, which is my requirement. It can also charge my mobile phone. The panel has 35 small, circular solar plates and cost me around Rs.4,000.”
This small step is a necessary one for a country like India which is the fifth largest carbon emission emitter, according to a 2007 study. What’s more, the country relies on coal for 90 percent of its energy and this source accounts for a third of the country’s emission.
And it’s not just Australia and India. The country of Jordan recently got backing from The World Bank to help finance a $600 million project to create a solar plant and research suggests that the California agriculture scene is quickly turning towards solar energy since it is efficient and has low maintenance costs.
Photo by Jim Clark