Your perspective on solar power may be greatly affected by your location in the world. There is no doubt that many people view solar power as a good thing, or a goal for the future. In the United States, renewable energy goals are set, which make incentives like Solar Renewable Energy Credits possible. The goal in developed countries is to reduce the carbon footprint that is currently produced by electricity production, and, for many home and business owners, there is the allure of cost cutting, and return on investment. However, solar power brings a very different type of promise to other parts of the world.
Waking up and flipping a light switch is a luxury that many of us take for granted. A few days, or even hours, without electricity is a major inconvenience, as our lifestyles are very dependent on modern technology. However, much of the world lives without a power grid or a reliable electricity source. For those people, solar power is an idea that can bring a new standard of living.
This is not just information that can be found in a magazine article, or read in a textbook. The internet has made global communication possible, and messages are sent directly to the Solar Energy World Facebook page from individuals in other countries inquiring about solar power. One commenter from Uganda writes, “The lack of electricity deprives people of basic necessities such as refrigeration, lighting, and communications.” He also comments that solar power could bring electricity to places like rural Kenya, where he says that 80% of households do not have access to electricity supply.
So how can solar power make a difference? In the United States, most solar power systems are installed and tied to the existing electrical grid. However, we do see the possibility for solar powered devices to run independent of the grid. Besides off-grid installations with on-site electricity storage, we have items like solar phone chargers, and flashlights. These gadgets are convenient when an outlet is not available to charge them conventionally, but for someone who does not have access to the electric grid at all, items that can be charged and powered entirely by the sun can be life changing. A solar powered generator can charge a mobile phone, providing communication that would otherwise be nonexistent. Solar power can provide light for households that would otherwise be limited to candles or kerosene, and the benefits that solar can bring do not stop there.
Charities and organizations are working to make solar power more accessible and affordable to those who need it. In Haiti, where the electricity supply can be dangerously unreliable, a new solar powered hospital is expected to open in March of 2013 (CleanTechnica), and non-profits like the Solar Electric Light Fund are raising support for the 1.5 billion people living without modern benefits of electricity. Increased availability of solar power has the capability to improve the quality of lives, and, with the example of the solar hospital, even save them.