Solar energy is making headway in some of the most remote areas of the world, places where diesel fuel is hard to come by, and electric power is sorely needed for light and communication to other parts of the world. Now, thanks to a company called Global Himalayan Expeditions (GHE), even the most far-flung parts of the planet can have access to cheap electric power. 22 Himalayan Villages Go Solar GHE has succeeded in providing reliable, affordable electric power to perhaps the most remote mountain villages and communities in the world—the Himalayas. The company has installed 95 DC solar-energy storage microgrids, producing 19.6 kW in the 22 villages of India's Kargil and Ladakh provinces. Many people living in these distant villages have never had electricity. One can only imagine the surprise and delight of villagers who suddenly have 2,000 LED light bulbs in 60 LED streetlights illuminating homes and pathways. Not to mention the convenience of watching world news and entertainment on 36 LED television sets. In fact, the microgrids have improved the lives of 5,130 Himalayan community residents. In addition,… Read more

The free energy we get from the sun is 10,000 times what we currently use. Harnessing just 0.01% of what the sun bestows on us is enough to sustain us without resorting to polluting fossil fuels. But how do we tap into all that fee energy? Therein lies the challenge. One bold, new approach is self-replicating solar power. The Sahara Solar Breeder Project is leading the charge, hoping to use the Sahara Desert’s virtually limitless quantities of sand, turning silica into silicon, and ultimately into solar panels. These panels will then be used to power more silica-refining and solar panel factories. And these, in turn, will build more solar panels, thus continuing a self-replicating cycle. Meeting Half of Our Energy Needs by 2050 By its very nature, the concept of self-replicating solar power promises the potential for exponential growth. Proponents of the Sahara Solar Breeder Project claim that it could provide enough solar power stations to satisfy as much as 50% of our planet’s energy needs by 2050. Solar stations built beyond that could provide the Earth with a surplus of energy. Technological… Read more

While the rush to solar is unquestionably the goal of many sustainability enthusiasts, how to efficiently store solar energy remains somewhat elusive. Ways to flatten the power curve between day and night, high demand and low has become a prime target of utility engineers for some time now. Fortunately, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, for materials science and engineering researchers have finally uncovered a way to harness large-scale solar power storage. What this means is that large scale utilities may finally be able to cut back on burning fossil fuels. Turning Rust Into Solar Cells Believe it or not, ordinary metal oxides, like rust, can be turned into solar cells with the ability to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This makes it possible to store energy at night or when the sun’s rays are blocked by clouds. Solar cells capture the photons, which are converted into electrons, and these in turn are used to provide the energy necessary to split the H20 molecule. At night, the energy can then be reclaimed by combining hydrogen and oxygen,… Read more

Forced to be self sufficient, an increasing number of islands are choosing to go solar, cutting the umbilical of diesel generators to provide electricity. These forward thinking islands have come to realize that the future of solar power depends on battery-coupled systems, which allow energy to be stored and dispatched at night or on cloudy days. Ta’u’s New Microgrid Situated on the east side of the Samoan islands, the small atoll of Ta’u in American Samoa is shutting down its diesel generators and going solar. Its new microgrid delivers 1.4 megawatts of solar-generation capacity backed by six megawatt hours of battery storage—enough to supply the 1,000 people who live there with the all the electricity they need, day and night. Relying on diesel fuel generators to provide electricity has been a problem from day one. Ta’u’s remote location meant that diesel fuel had to be shipped in by boat—an expensive process. The little 17 square-mile island often ran low on fuel before being resupplied. Going solar saved Ta’u from the work and worry of dealing with diesel fuels, with its attendant… Read more

Once primarily installed in locales where grid-tied lighting was considered impractical or too costly, solar-powered LED streetlights have become increasingly visible in parks, along trails, private streets, and both college and corporate campuses. These grid-free lighting structures have been adopted by private and municipal venues that seek lighting but not at the expense of uprooting existing landscaping or pavement. Developing countries with little or no electrical infrastructure have also embraced these lighting fixtures as a cost-effective alternative to constructing miles of wire and fossil fuel-powered electrical generators. A Symbiotic Relationship Emerges A steady increase in the efficiency of batteries, PV solar panels, and a corresponding drop in the cost of LED lighting systems have fueled an almost inexorable rise in the presence of LED street lights. In the last two decades, cities like Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans, San Francisco and Tucson have installed these sustainable lighting systems in many parts of their city. New streetlights powered by PV solar panels and rechargeable gel-cell deep-cycle or lead acid batteries have become as common as parking meters. A Myriad of Uses… Read more