Powered By the Sun

Powered By the Sun

By Hwaa Irfan

The Qur’an tells us:

{He hath constrained the night and the day and the sun and the moon to be of service unto you…} (Al-Yusuf 12: 13)

While we seek to use up other natural resources to the detriment of the ecosystems that sustain us, nowhere is the service of the sun more evident than in the case of solar energy. In fact, in the Middle East in particular, where hot days are many, the sun presents the ideal sustainable energy source of the future. For those who argue that the sun is dying with no knowledge of its future, if they could predict the death of the sun, then it would logically follow that life on earth as we know it would come to an end, for all creation, all ecosystems of the earth depends on the sun.

The manner in which the sun provides energy to the earth and the non-polluting nature of that energy are key factors in providing sustainable energy. In fact, it is the source energy supply of the fossil fuels that we have been burning up since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution to the detriment of the health of the earth, and all life.

In July 2010, a record-breaking pilotless plane broke the world record for the longest time in the air (two weeks) was totally solar powered. Ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the 50kg plane stayed airborne for 14 days, 22 minutes, and seconds. Built by defense technology company Qinetiq, ignoring the purpose for which the plane was built, the solar powered panels of the plane had lithium batteries, which stored the energy allowing for the plane to remain airborne at night! This technology should be redirected to civilian use, powering homes, industries and transport!

The amount of solar energy from the sun’s radiation on just one kilometer square is about 4,000 megawatts – enough to light a small town. In the report “Solar Lighting for the Base of the Pyramid” by Lighting Africa sponsored by the World Bank, and International Finance Corporation is broaching the idea of solar energy for Africa. Unfortunately there are cultural overtones when one states that 140 million African people living without regular or reliable access to electricity.

When one uses the day and the nights as our Creator intended, there is no need to upset our circadian rhythm by not functioning according to the rhythms of nature. When the sun sets, the pineal gland shifts gear and produces its primary hormone melatonin in larger quantities until it peaks from 2 – 3.00a.m in the morning.  The circadian rhythm sets the biological clocks, turns on the immune system and inhibits tumor promoters like estrogen. Studies indicate that even the most modest exposure to extended light stresses our bodies, accelerates aging and debilitates the immune and nervous systems. So when attempts are being made to change the lifestyle of a people in line with the globalized trend of pushing back the hours, one should not accept an unsustainable way of doing things, using sustainable means. However, when the intention is as follows one prays that it will be taken with such intent. Programming Manager for Lighting Africa Arthur Itotia told SciDev:

“By converting from kerosene to clean energy millions of consumers can improve their health, reduce their spending on expensive fuels and, ultimately, benefit from better illumination and more productive time in their homes, schools and businesses.”

As Lighting Africa helps to build the market for off-grid lighting across sub-Saharan Africa, it becomes apparent that the focus is in terms of business, as intrinsic to the initiative is consumer education, and improving access to finance. If the intent was pure, the focus would be about building a solar powered grid for homes, places of learning and industry. The marketing side would then take care of itself, as who would not want to have a less costly energy supply, and one that can be put in the hands of the consumer. Alas, the aim is to use Africa as one of the world’s largest markets for portable solar lighting, instead of helping Africa to provide its own supply of sustainable energy.

Meanwhile, coal dependent South Africa is setting up a solar power station with the aim to supply an annual output of 5 gigawatts of electricity i.e. 1/10th of its energy requirements. When apartheid finally ended only 40% of households had electricity compared to the 83% who are now connected. Looking for foreign as well as domestic investment, the plan for the solar park is being designed by Fluor, a U.S. engineering and construction company to be located where it hardly rains in the poorest province of the Northern Cape.

Shell Petroleum predicted as far back as 1995 that by 2050 that solar power would become our main source of electricity. The World Solar Program from 1996 – 2000 has been trying to coordinate efforts such as the Arab Solar Energy Programs of Morocco, and Oman via the Clean Energy Fund, promoting the unfortunate role of banks in financing renewable energy sources.

The American Whitehouse began converting years ago when it was more expensive. Former president Jimmy Carter spent $30,000 in the 1970s on a solar water heating system for the West Wing. Former George W. Bush the elder, installed a solar powered maintenance system, which also heated the water for the pool. Now President Barack Obama will install solar panels on the roof of the living quarters with the aim of heating water, and supplying some electricity

A Solar Powered Home

Not everyone has the opportunity to solar power their homes, because of the issue of ownership, but when certain developed countries are increasingly experiencing the problem of power cuts do to demand outweighing supply, then those who have the option should consider solar powering one’s homes as a viable direction to go in. Imagine, the long term prospect of not having to pay exorbitant electricity/gas bills. It also means with the unreliability of the job market, that one has less bill to worry about.

In Yorkshire, England, A Shade Greener, which fits solar panels to homes, has had a push with government backing to help people solarize their homes for little cost. As such the business has expanded enabling them to increase their workforce, which in times of an economic meltdown, is beneficial all round.  By helping those who can make that choice, frees up the grid for those who cannot.

In Australia, where it is not uncommon to off the grid, there is a connection system for those whose homes are powered by solar energy without the need for batteries. If one has excess energy, the system allows for energy to flow into the grid, and if you are lacking or on need of more in energy, one is able to draw on the grid. With growing eco-communities with lots of experience, sharing the ups, downs and lessons helps the newcomer to link up with alternative ways of living. For instance:

–        To make sure one is not being short-changed when buying solar panels, there should be two types of warranty:  a) Power output (lasts 20 – 30 years), and a Material Warranty (lasts 2 – 10 years)

–        Look out for get out clauses

–        Position of the solar panels if one does not have a roof that slants at an angle of 30°

–        Obstacles that would prevent the solar panels from getting sunlight

–        If one is connecting to a grid, make sure it is not the electricity company who installs it

–        Make sure that are using energy efficient appliances: fridge, light bulbs, draught proofing, pipes leak proofed etc

–        Have the meter reconfigured if going on the grid to make sure the charge is correct for what energy one is supplying, and what energy one is receiving

–        Have an inverter installed because a) convert electricity supplied from the solar panels to alternating current for power points, b) Changes the lowest voltage from solar panels to higher voltage needed by one’s appliances, c) protect one’s home from shutting down when supply is cut from the grid due to power outage/cut, d) export electricity to the grid when the solar panels are providing more electricity than one is using

Thinking about it!?

Sources:

Capiello, D. “Solar Panels on White House: Obama to Install Solar Panels in 2011.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/05/solar-panels-on-white-hou_n_750525.html

“Growing Home Solar Power Market to Create 300 New Yorkshire Jobs.” http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Resources/Energy-saving-news/Renewable-energy2/Growing-home-solar-power-market-to-create-300-new-Yorkshire-jobs/%28energysavingtrust%29/801094

Okoth, D. “Africa Poised for Solar Lighting Boom.” http://www.scidev.net/en/news/africa-poised-for-solar-lighting-boom.html

Smith, L. “Solar-powered Plane Breaks World Record.”http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/solarpowered-plane-breaks-world-record-2169864.html

Smith, D. “South Africa Unveils Plans for ‘World’s Biggest’ Solar Power Plant.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/oct/25/south-africa-solar-power-plant

Solar Power Warranties – How to Make Sure Yours is Worth More Than the Paper It Is Written On.”http://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/

Related Topics:

Providing Your Own Energy Supply

Behind the Food Price Crisis!

Anti-Austerity and Living on the Edge

Preparing for Life!

Finding a Global Balance

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2 thoughts on “Powered By the Sun

  1. Thank you for the post, I actually learned something from it. Very quality content on this blog. Always looking forward to new article.

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