In light of the drastic climate change that is resulting from our reliance on oil and biofuels, it’s imperative that we find environmentally-friendly alternates to those sources of energy. One of those alternatives has been staring us in the face for billions of years: the sun. According to the Texas Solar Energy Society, the amount of energy coming from the sun in the timespan of 40 minutes is equivalent to the amount of energy humans consume in a year. The exact amount of energy that reaches the Earth is 84 TerraWatts, and humans only use 12 TerraWatts*. With this massive amount of energy income, then our need for biofuels as a primary source of energy could become less prominent, if not entirely obsolete.
In fact, we are already on the path towards this future. Universities all over Americahave been integrating solar panels into their building structure, as well in areas suchas outdoor sitting areas and bus stops. There is a similar result in Asia; countries such as China, Bangladesh, India, and Japan areusing energy from solar panels, and China is the world leader in the production of photovoltaictechnology. The total use of solar energy in Europe has increased from 45,314 gigawatts in 2011 to 67,084 gigawatts in 2012. According to the report that cites those statistics, it’s inevitable that solar power will compete with more prominent forms of energy production.
If such a drastic change is inevitable, then it’s imperative that we look at previous attempts to implement solar energy into the global market, so that we may learn from the mistakes that were made. One such attempt is the work of the Desertec foundation, which sought to utilized the vast amount of energy, particularly solar, that the Sahara desert was receiving in order to provide a clean, environmentally-friendly energy source for the increasing demands of the world. Unfortunately, the project didn’t turn out as well as planned; the project in the Sahara desert got shut down in 2013. The reasons for this was that it was too expensive and the methods for transporting this energy was too much of a hassle. This is was a good idea to start off with that had good intentions, but there is more work to be done before such attempts like the Desertec project in the Sahara could be made again. For example, a more efficient way to transport the energy needs to be developed. Investments into the development of this technology would need to be made.
There is also the social aspects of the implementation of renewable energy to consider. The Desertec Foundation was founded by European politicians, businesspeople, and technicians, and it had an agenda for African territory. There is a history of Africa being colonized by Europeans for profits. Would investing in European technology in the Sahara desert be beneficial for both Europe and Africa, or would this be another case of Europeans exploiting Africa for its resources? Would the construction and maintenance of the solar panels be used as a means for another case of European colonization? If so, then an alternate route for finding solar energy would have to be considered. Another variable is the social acceptance of renewable resources. Since it’s something that is being newly explored, the technology that we have to properly harvest and utilize such energy doesn’t compare to the extraction of biofuels, and thus, negative perceptions of the process is still being perpetuated. If progress for renewable resources is to be made, then education on renewable resources is something that would be beneficial to invest in.
Despite some of the shortcoming with the process of handling the energy that we obtain, I think that investing in this particular renewable energy source is a completely worthwhile cause, and it will be beneficial in both the present and the future.