10 04 22 Turning Toward the Sun - Jack Heppner

In a previous article I said that by “embracing the wind” the world is reducing its dependence on dirty fossil fuels to create energy. In tandem with this movement there is a massive turning toward the sun as a source of energy. Together these movements offer a glimmer of hope in the midst of an energy crisis, especially if we all learn how to minimize our energy requirements.

In his book, Plan B 4.0, Lester R. Brown documents this global shift towards the sun. He notes that in many countries of the world, power utility companies are establishing large solar farms to supply electricity through already established power grids. In some cases they use large arrays of solar panels. In other cases they concentrate the sun’s rays on closed containers to create steam which subsequently produces electricity, a process referred to as (CSP).

Until recently, Japan, Germany and the USA have been leading the way. But new countries are coming on board rapidly, including China, Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, Italy, Spain and many more. This move towards a cleaner source of energy is encouraging. However, such large-scale projects still depend on elaborate power grids to distribute electricity which in many parts of the world are vulnerable to the vagaries of weather, war and terrorism.

So even more encouraging is the global move towards solar energy using smaller systems that do not depend on large power grids, or indeed, can be used where no grids even exist. By installing solar panels people still connected to a power grid can tap into a clean and renewable energy source, plus be assured of electrical power even when their grid goes down.

Solar panel technology also offers clean and affordable energy for the billions of people without access to a power grid. It is estimated that 1.5 billion kerosene lamps are used for light worldwide by such people, using the equivalent of 1.3 million barrels of oil a day. But now, whether you live in a poor Indian village or on the slopes of the Andean mountains, you can install your own solar power system that will pay for itself in four or five years, after which the power is basically free. And besides offering a new source of light, enough energy remains to operate three or four small appliances.

Another massive move underway is the installation of solar water heaters to provide hot water for use in homes and even to heat them directly. The technology is really quite simple. Solar collectors on rooftops heat a fluid that is circulated through tubes in a tank, thus transferring heat to water intended for household use and for circulation through tubes in the floor to provide warmth to the home. China, for example, now has 27 million such devices installed in homes.

If present projections remain on track, by 2020 energy produced in this way will be equivalent to that of 690 coal-fired power plants. And that is good news indeed!