We are living in times when monetary disparity around the world is rampant. On one hand we have people in the fierce grip of consumerism. On the other hand we have people with barely enough to live day by day. The viscous circle of poverty takes opportunities away from the less privileged and actively tries to chain them to their existing status.
We have a world of hyper connectivity and high-speed broadband connections, and smart phones more capable than computers of past decade. In stark contrast to this is the glaring reality of nearly half of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — living on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. For almost half the population on earth, keeping the lights up in the dark, turning the fan on when it’s hot or having means of heating when it’s cold is a struggle. Many don’t even have a roof over their heads. Those however who do have a shelter, solar energy presents the best opportunity to alleviate their suffering to some degree.
If governments are sincere than they should offer a rebate to the poor on buying panels as opposed to providing millions of dollars of subsidies to the big conglomerates.
Here are the three reasons why solar energy should be considered in developing world
In many developing countries, providing grid electricity particularly to remote villages can be a challenge. There is a huge infra -structure cost. Providing solar panels at extremely low price can look after the energy needs that can increase the productivity of the region. For example in many agricultural regions in Pakistan, tube wells are the only source of water, which not only serves people’s living needs but is also used for irrigation.
Grid electricity in many parts of Pakistan in unavailable, while in many others its unreliable. Therefore, in such regions solar PV systems can provide the energy to run the tube well pumps.
Similarly, Solar PV storage systems can provide charge for cell phone batteries. This brings connectivity to the remote regions and communication can help to link up resources. This opens up opportunities to bring produce to the market more effectively.
Lastly people that are reliant on candles and kerosene lamps for lighting during the night can use solar LED systems which last a lifetime. Reading and studying that couldn’t be done during night, becomes an option.
Solar kits available also come with fans that can provides invaluable respite in scorching heat.
Low Cost and Scalability
The great thing about solar energy is that it is scalable. One can start with a single panel and easily integrate more panels in the future. The technology is also the cheapest long term energy solution to begin with. The costs have gone down to less than $1 per watt. A 200 Watt panel system can cost $150. The price can be lowered further, if the government subsidies the panels. If the panels are self-assembled (from Solar cells), a 200 W can cost as low as $50.
Longevity and Reliability
A solar panels is designed to last for over 25 years. It can be used even after that period but there is a depreciation in the efficiency value at almost 1% per year. This means the panel has the potential to recover the energy value many times over than the cost. It should be noted that most electricity producing devices have some kind of rotating machinery. For example, hydro turbines, water wheels and wind turbines all have rotary components.
Moving systems are mechanical less reliable that solid state systems. The reason is that moving components are prone to wear and tear. The bearings have a certain life (normally given in revolutions) and lubrication can also deplete. Solar PV panels on the other hand have no such maintenance requirements. The only thing perhaps that is needed is wiping the dust off the panels when needed. If a battery storage is used in conjunction with PV panel, than the batteries will have to be looked after. The panel themselves though are maintenance free.
Averting Line losses and Energy Theft
Even in many urban and semi urban centres in the developing world have a haphazard grid infrastructure. In many cases, the grid has been outsized by the demand. The energy requirements overtime have substantially increased. This overload on grid often results in PMTs (Pole mounted transformers) blowing up. Line losses also result because of poor grid design. Often over 25% of the generated energy in power plants fails to reach the end user because of line losses. Similarly energy theft is also a major problem in population dense centres in the developing world. People have little regard for health and safety and often risk their lives to get free electricity.
The cost for the line losses and thefts have to be picked up by those paying the bills in the form of surcharges. In many developing countries, these surcharges amount more than the electricity price consumed by the end user.
It is hoped that in the coming years, more and more people will adopt solar energy because of the reduction in price. The technology can not only alleviate poverty by providing opportunities but can also help the planet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are many other reasons why solar energy is the best option. This includes the fact that the setup is extremely easy and non hazardous. Just like plug and play devices (computer accessories) solar can be easily installed. It should be noted that several D.C devices are available (like fans, lights, radios etc). This means that D.C output by solar does not have be converted in A.C to be utilized.
A well written article on how solar energy has transformed lives can be found from this link.
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