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The Power of Our Sun: Using Solar to Power the Whole World

If an alien civilisation were to study humanity, they’d be surprised and amused, likely even disappointed at our use of millions-of-years-old compressed dinosaurs to fuel our energy needs. They’d look up to our brilliant Sun and wonder why humans haven’t capitalised on this abundant and constantly available source of free, clean energy.

The truth, though, is that our species has recognised, in the past few decades, that using fossil fuels to produce electricity has a terrible cost to the environment, and to all living things. Being the dominant species on the planet, and enjoying the gifts of logic and empathy, we need to recognise the urgency of switching over to clean sources of energy. The renewed interest in renewable energy sources is promising, and especially the tendency to bank on solar energy as a source of clean, abundant power.

Solar power has distinct and long-term advantages. In the past decades the cost of Photovoltaic (PV) was prohibitively expensive; of late due to the uptake in solar energy generation, costs have gone down drastically, and the cost of generating each kWh has become much cheaper; cheaper even than producing coal. There are incidences where coal plants are using energy generated by solar to power the plants. The irony!

It boggles the mind that the energy from the Sun hitting just the Earth in a single hour could meet the power needs of the entire World’s economy for a whole year. There are companies like Symbio Energy that provide complete solutions that include solar but are not limited to it. Onsite integrated energy systems for personal and professional dwellings as provided by Symbio are a step to taking yourself off the coal-powered grid, and even selling your surplus clean energy to earn from such systems.

The solar power and renewables juggernaut is well underway, gathering incredible momentum, and despite the attacks on renewables by American President Donald Trump’s administration, it’s not going to be stopped or even delayed. But at the same time we have to improve our renewables technologies and accelerate the switch over to renewables from dirty fossil fuels, if we want to not rob our future generations of a clean world.

Burning wood for heat has a terrible environmental cost

It’s a natural instinct to huddle around a wood-burning fire in this snowy weather. But burning wood as fuel is one of the worst ways to get heat. Worse than burning coal or oil.[i] As we know, trees absorb atmospheric CO2 over their lifetimes. When we burn wood, we release the CO2 accumulated over years or decades in one go, straight into the atmosphere.

Wood burning isn’t climate neutral at all. Inhaling the smoke from the fire could lead to respiratory problems, especially in young children, elderly people, and those suffering from breathing disorders.

We will need to plant more trees and have more forested areas for every bit of wood that we burn. Humanity is at the tipping point in our human-caused Climate Change effects. Let us not add one more checkbox to the number of ways in which we are polluting the environment and ruining not just our health, but endangering the lives of the generations to come.

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[i] https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/woody-biomass-power-and-heat-impacts-global-climate
[ii] Image source – https://in.pinterest.com/pin/300333868884431584/

Are the next generations going to suffer the consequences of our actions?

We cannot continue to create buildings that generate emissions and by consequence contaminate the land as well as the people who live there. Sustainable development means efficient use of land, reduced or zero emissions and less pollution without harming the environment, which would effect future generations.

Trees and plants are the lungs of the earth.

We continue to destroy the lungs of the Earth in the name of development. Deliberately harming the earth and future generations by taking land and habitat. How does that make sense? Will we carry on using green belt and taking more from nature or will we use all of our resources more effectively including land? Since 1938 we have taken more and more land from the green belt and all the towns have spread out like a cancer.

Surely we have to use our resources more wisely, don’t we?

Will we make more effective use of previously developed land and yes also accept that tomorrow’s generation won’t all get houses with gardens and many will initially live in flats.

We may have to accept that if we can’t continue to spread out and keep taking from nature that we need to build higher rise buildings in the UK towns and look at solutions.

It really is that simple. Keep with the same policy and not build enough homes and keep spreading out, with cars parked on the streets OR build higher and build underground car parks for all cars keeping the roads clear?

Do we build energy inefficient buildings which continue to produce emissions and kill by consequence or do we build emission free buildings which are cheaper on energy and save lives?