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Going Solar


By James Yasin

Shell chose simply to pay a £29.4Mn fine, rather than clean up its operations.

In addition to the wilful destruction of the earth perpetrated by corporations like Shell, we see year on year, accidental destruction of habitats and the beauty of the planet in spills like Deepwater Horizon, Exxon Valdez, and Ixtoc.

The most recent of these, Deepwater Horizon, still requires 47,000 people to be working on the clean-up operations. In 2013, 4.6 million lbs of oily material was recovered from just 55 miles of the Louisiana coastline. This is double what was recovered in 2012.

And now, the newest way to poison our water and ecosystems, ‘fracking’, is the cradled baby of the political and economic elite.

It’s instances like these which make the case for why solar power is necessary. So the question arises: Is it a viable alternative?

SolarAid is a charity supplying solar lights to rural populations in Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda. Approximately two hundred and ninety million people use kerosene lamps in these countries.

Kerosene emits poisonous fumes and can be dangerous if they burn or spill.

SolarAid works through ministries of education to supply solar powered lights to the regions to enable children to study, to provide a cheaper alternative to kerosene, and a much safer one.

They have supplied 908,000 lamps so far. Though this is a big number, the project as a whole is restricted to lighting, although some lights can also charge mobile phones through a USB port.

If solar power is to be taken seriously as a force for good in the world, the scope of its potentials must be broadened and deepened.

Countries with a lot of sunlight could, in theory, become electricity exporters and get themselves entirely off fossil fuelled electricity if the storage capacity were there.

So, is it?

Well, yes in fact, the technology is there. Both E.os and Hitachi have developed 1MW lithium-ion and zinc-hybrid cathode batteries which can store electricity in washing-machine sized capacitors. To put this in perspective, OFGEM reports that the average annual UK household electricity consumption was 3300kWh in 2012.

If this technology were utilised effectively and deployed, countries with minimal public control of their resources could become rich energy exporters and use the funds to develop their economies, while saving people in developed countries money and saving the world from irreversible climatic upheaval.

This electricity could be used in countries with little sun and to power high-rise estates, which do not have enough space to power themselves.

Similarly, it could be used for powering businesses and industrial plants.

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One additional fact is that, contrary to popular belief, solar power can provide more than enough electricity to the average UK household, particularly if the more durable Mono-Silicon and Poly-Silicon varieties of cells are used. It would take six photo-voltaic panels, about three square-metres, to produce enough electricity to power; each square metre creating about 1100kWh.

In addition to household and industrial usage, which are stationary, both Ford and Mitsubishi, have produced solar-powered cars. Mitsubishi’s has a range of 200km, with the electricity being charged into the car’s battery from PV-cells at its point of rest.

If solar power is to be taken seriously as a force for good in the world, the scope of its potentials must be broadened and deepened.

So, if solar power is clean, affordable, and technologically viable, why is there not greater take-up?

Well, it’s here that we must turn to broken politics and, perhaps, a fear of the unknown.

Failure of large nations, often beholden to corporate interests, including those of the energy industry, to address these issues at conferences such as Copenhagen and Warsaw led to a walk out of Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and many others, because, as one WWF spokesperson stated, ‘Governments have given up’.

Hada Baraka, of, blamed ‘obstructive lobbying forces’ for the deadlock.

The oil and gas industry corrupts democracy with intrusive lobbying. In the US alone, it has spent an average $190Mn per year since 1998. That buys a unfair share of voting power in congress.

If solar power is to be the electrical provider of the future, getting people to be electrically self-sufficient, which would save the average UK household about £1100/year, it needs government support.

Why then did the British government cut the £430,000 subsidy to the solar power industry in half in 2012?

There is no sensible answer, but what is known is that the consequences of the policy were dire.

This resulted in an 87% decline in conversion to solar power. £430,000 is barely noticeable in comparison to an enormous arms budget or the budget deficit.

The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey speculated recently that it would take 10,000,000 households to adopt solar power, by 2020, for the UK to reach its renewable energy targets.

So let’s do that. Pressure your MP or Senator, get involved in Climate Camp and other organisations, solarise your home, save money, be self-sufficient, and save the earth simultaneously with providing hot poorer countries with a vital export commodity. We can avoid fracking and nuclear power with the use of solar energy, we can free ourselves from outrageous corporation persecution by an energy oligopoly, and make the whole world a little brighter.

If you’re interested in “GOING SOLAR” at home, and helping save the environment and on your bills, check out the below-

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