Invest In Sahara - Why Don’t Ya?
Published 27th October 2010 - 17 comments - 2074 views -
Yes we can - solar power as sustainable energy
Emptying oil wells and a thinning ozone layer has everybody talking about clean and sustainable energy, and well - I'm all for it. Nothing says 'we love our planet' like trying to save it from the greasy, messy filth that is oil. But it has to be cheap of course. Expensive energy is so last season.
Quiz: Which energy source is clean and sustainable (at least for the next six billion years or so), and is thus far not exploited to the fullest extent? Yes – you guessed it. It’s the sun! There is this crazy new thing called solar panels, and all the cool kids are doing it – but why aren’t the other roughly 6,5 billion?
What the desert holds for us
In the far south western corner of the Algerian desert lie four vast refugee camps. The camps are home to some 150.000 refugees, who were driven from the lands they once wandered more than 35 years ago. They are the Saharawi’s – the people that walk the desert – and their home country was once known as Western Sahara. Today the land is divided in two by a great wall. One part still occupied by Morocco, the other part completely inhabitable because of six million landmines.
So what does this have to do with climate change and energy? Well. The Saharawi refugees in the camps are surrounded by nothing but sand, and then some. They have much of nothing and nothing of everything, but the one thing they do have going for them in this devilish place, is the sun. Living completely off of humanitarian aid, somewhere down the line someone though of solar panels, and thus some families in the camps have their own one small solar panel. During the day, the solar panels supply the battered car batteries with enough juice to run a tv-set, a radio, electric lights and other small appliances that these desert kings and queens have come to posses.
But I ask you this. If refugees living in interim camps with no income what so ever can utilize the sun for sustainable, clean energy – then why can’t the rest of the world.
A funny little thing called 'dough'
The Institute for Energy, which is backed by the European Commission, estimates that it will take only 0,3 percent of the solar energy generated in the Sahara desert to supply all of Europe with clean, CO2 neutral energy. So by my calculation it will take less than 10 percent of that generated energy to cover the entire world. And according to a Danish news cast yesterday, scientists believe that the sun will grow to consume the earth and then explode in about six billion years, so this mother of energy should be safe for exploitation for at least the amount of time it will take for our species to eradicate it self.
And while the sun is gaining grounds and the ozone layer has more holes than a strainer, why not turn the negative into a positive and utilize the ever present energy?
A Danish analyst by the name of Anders Kofoed-Wiuff was less than enthusiastic about it, when a legislative proposal to subsidize solar energy was on the table. But not because it’s a bad idea. He realizes that the sun is as viable a source of energy as any other sustainable source – but with one small problem. Denmark is not exactly known as the Sunshine Country, so as a country, we wouldn’t be able to profit from solar energy. Wind power on the other hand is the Danish equivalent to oil, so our dear analyst finds it more constructive to rely on the much more profitable wind power. REALLY!?! So ‘let’s save the environment – but only if we make a profit from it’ is the way it’s gonna go?
So I have an idea: Let’s not care about the profit. Let’s cover one tenth of the Sahara desert, where nothing grows and nothing ever will grow, with solar panels and let’s go Green. The western world may not profit from it – if you take aside the environmental upsides – but guess who will! Developing countries such as Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Libya and Sudan. Is that really such a bad thing? Taking the colonial era into account, I think we owe them at least that much.
Invest in Sahara - why don't ya?
INFO: If you have made it through this post and liked it, then you will love Pabitra Mukhopadhyay's entry Why Solar Is Not Going To Be The Future Of Sustainability. Please visit his blog and prepare to get wiser.
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