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Can Solar Power rescue us from Greenhouse Effect?

Updated: May 22, 2019

A Solar Company wanted to build a solar farm in a village last year. The idea was to power the lights using solar energy.

Unfortunately, the idea met with stiff opposition from the people in the village. They said, “Solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun.” and a retired school teacher went on to say that the solar panels would prevent the plants from photosynthesizing and thereby stop them from growing!

In the end, the plan for the solar farm was dropped and the company moved on to other locations to set up the facility.

What is surprising is that this incident didn’t happen in a village in Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh or Bihar where illiteracy is rampant. It happened in a village in North Carolina, US.

Are you shocked?

Well, I guess many were. It totally brings home the fact as to how unaware people are about renewable energy and the means to use it even in a developed nation like the US.

Dangers of Climate Change

Sustainable energy is definitely the need of the hour and the recent Climate Change Paris Summit brought the focus on the basic fundamental issue that all countries had chosen to ignore for a long time. Energy resources are getting depleted and the planet is heating up.

Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.5°F during the past century and what is alarming is that it is slated to rise from 0.5 to 8.6°F in the next hundred years. Though the rise in temperature is small in scale, it i

s a grave cause for concern as its repercussions are of mammoth prop

ortions.

Changes in the climate are already evident as they are resulting in unprecedented floods, intense droughts and severe heat wave in all parts of the world. Last year’s floods in India, UK brings home the fact that this change is happening faster than anyone anticipated.

Greenhouse Effect We studied about the Greenhouse Effect when in school and it is sad that we will witness its devastating effects first hand if we do not reduce our carbon footprint. Greenhouse gasses such as carbon-di-oxide traps the energy within the earth’s atmosphere resulting in an increase of temperature. Deforestation and burning of fossil fuels have resulted in an unprecedented rise in CO2 levels. If you see this chart published by NASA you will know the gravity of the situation.

Extreme weather conditions are becoming the order of the day.

Oceans are warming up at an alarming rate. A new study of the oceans has reported that half the increase in global ocean heat occurred in the past two decades! Studies have attested to the fact that 35% of additional warmth is present deep underwater and extra heat is reaching depths of 2300ft now.

Why does this matter?

It matters a great deal because warmer oceans means a rise in the sea level, powerful tropical storms, disappearing habitats and a disruptive ecosystem for plants and animals.

Measures to counter Greenhouse Effect

There are many ways to counter the greenhouse effect –

1. Planting more trees 2. Reducing the usage of plastic 3. Reducing the usage of vehicles 4. Using energy efficient appliances 5. Going solar

Planting trees are of paramount importance to preserve this planet. We have been saying this for decades now. A few months I read an article that brought a smile to my face. The King and Queen of Bhutan celebrated the birth of their Prince by planting 108,000 trees across the Himalayan Kingdom.

What could be more heartening than this?

The Prince of Bhutan could have had the most fabulous party to celebrate his birth but his parents thought that it would be more prudent to give him a promise of a green world instead of a battered hot planet when he grows up.

I was much more happy to read this other news item too. An NRI couple Anil and Pamela Malhotra who were passionate about conserving forest and preserving wildlife bought over 300 acres of barren land in 1991 in Karnataka.

Today you will not see a barren land there. It is a verdant forest home to many native wild animals and a wildlife sanctuary!

We certainly need more people like them on this planet. Wouldn’t you agree?

Solar Power

I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. – Thomas Edison

Sadly, we are at a point where we are well on our way to exhaust coal and oil. Solar power is one of the best renewable energy sources left for our planet today. This non-polluting clean energy is not only reliable but also poses zero risks to the environment today. It doesn’t release harmful gasses into the atmosphere and nor does it need any extra fuel to produce electricity and there is no question of transportation of fuel, storage of radioactive waste involved here. Solar energy is a constant source of power that can be tapped anytime and the Sun is going to available for the next 5 Billion years according to science.

Why are we not tapping this?

Tapping Solar Energy

To harness the solar power one needs photovoltaic cells, which utilizes a semi-conductor to absorb radiation from the sun. When the semi-conductor absorbs this radiation it emits electrons that are harnessed as electricity. Solar Panels require very little maintenance and they silently go about storing the sun’s energy without any hassles.

Did you know the energy that the sun provides to the entire Earth for one hour can meet the global energy needs for an entire year? The saddest part of this statistic is that we are able to harness only 0.001% of that energy.

Save on Electricity

Kelly and Tom Hippler in Sharon, a small suburb near Boston, Massachusetts opted for Solar power to try and reduce their electricity bills. They installed solar panels on the roof of their Colonial-style home in 2015. Thanks to the US federal tax credit the installation of solar panel cost them around $31,500 but it was well worth the investment because their electricity bill was zero as the sustainable energy of solar power took care of their power needs for their 3500 sq feet house! That’s not all! They were able to save up enough solar power to give it back to their company earning them a small credit on top of the savings.

Solar Appliances

There is a whole host of solar appliances that can be used as well to reduce the greenhouse effect – Solar Lamps, Solar Air Conditioning, Solar Charger, Solar Cooker etc. What more you even have solar panels on space crafts to derive electricity from the sunlight!

I was very excited to learn that Solar Air Conditioners have come into the market. Come summer air conditioners start buzzing in all our homes and offices so much so that people start saving money just to pay their electricity bills. The electricity that air conditioners consume is 30% to 40% higher than the total electricity used in a household. By switching to solar air conditioners, you will be saving on astronomical electricity bills and will also reduce the load on the electricity grid.

Solar lights are yet another thing that makes a great lot of sense especially in a country like ours. Solar street lights are easy to maintain when compared to traditional lights and there are no external wires involved here hence no chance of accidents. These lights work through the day to gather the solar energy and then work during the night illuminating the streets.

It is very heartening to see our country moving ahead on the sustainable energy lane to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and electricity. On the heels of historic Paris Climate Summit many meaningful measures have been undertaken by the govt. to bring in sustainable energy to our cities and villages. This is evident from the smart city proposals that they have floated, wherein 10% of the energy requirement of the city would be met by solar power. This is but a wee drop in the ocean but I am glad to see that we are at least initiating it in our country.

Solar Powered Cars

Have you heard of Bridgestone World Solar Car Challenge?

No?

In 1982 Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins took out their home-built solar car for a ride across Australia from west to east and this inspired many others to explore the boundaries of solar-powered transportation. Since 1987, World Solar Challenge has showcased the advanced automotive technology that harnesses solar energy as an alternative to conservative fuel-driven vehicles.

This year an all-star team of 17 Michigan University students raced a solar car that took them two years to build. Aerodynamically designed this lightweight solar-powered vehicle can reach speeds up to 100 miles per hour raced through 1900 miles of the Australian outback and came fourth which is remarkable considering that their solar car was built by students.

How awesome would it be if we all could drive a solar powered card? No more pollution… smog… or smoke. No need to pay for petrol or diesel! Just get some sunshine and be on your way!

While this is exciting to contemplate I am right now happy to see India trying to introduce solar buses! An initiative of the government, which will soon be launched in Pune, Mumbai and Bangalore, will certainly reduce the dependence on fossil fuel and reduce the carbon footprint.

World’s Largest Desert Solar Plant

Do you where the world’s largest desert solar plant has been installed?

It went live in Morocco in the desert of Sahara near the city of Ouarzazate. According to researchers this solar power plant is capable of powering over one million homes by 2018 and will reduce the carbon footprint by 760,000 tons per year.

That’s a massive undertaking and this is exactly what we need in our country as well. Apart from creating a cleaner environment it will also create a new job market and improve the quality of our life.

I feel that awareness is lacking in most of us where renewable energy is concerned. If a village in the US can go ahead and reject a solar farm I am worried as to what our own villagers might do. While the technology to tap into Solar energy is in place we need more people who would take the leap and implement it boldly.

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