In the U.S. and around the world, the use of solar energy is on the rise. So, is solar energy the energy source of the future? Who is even using it, anyway?
In Ethiopia – and in a growing list of other nations in Africa – Solarkiosks were introduced and installed throughout the country in rural areas, according to the website 1 Million Women.
Solarkiosks are made by Graft, an organization headquartered in Berlin. Graft also has offices in Beijing and Los Angeles, where it was established in 1998. Noted for its architectural activism, Graft estimates that 1.5 billion people live in communities that aren’t connected to electricity grids.
Solarkiosks offer a safe and affordable solution for people living in off-the-grid areas. They promote easier living through clean energy, better waste management, the encouragement of local, female entrepreneurship, as well as easy access to electricity and resources.
Far to the northeast of Ethiopia, scientists in South Korea are busy at work with solar energy as well. They have created solar PV cells that are 1 micrometer thick, which is thinner than the width of a human hair.
Earlier this year, MIT researchers, also experimenting with solar energy, created solar cells small enough to sit atop a soap bubble without popping it.
In my community of Bellingham, Washington, solar energy is also being used and experimented with. I recently read a story in the local newspaper about a couple who converted their home to all-electric energy, running on solar power as well as other energy-savvy devices and building utilities.
For an interesting look into the genius of the International Living Future Institute, watch this video. The house is one of only 15 residences in the world that is Net Zero Energy certified by the International Living Future Institute. Notably, from May 2014 to May 2015, the home generated 6,691 kilowatt-hours of electricity; they only used 2,881 Kwh. The surplus amounted to almost four months of electricity consumed by the area’s average residential customer.
The Bellingham home and its success isn’t the only work being done to promote solar energy within my community. For example, at Western Washington University, there is ongoing research and several projects in progress – solar powered cars and solar windows among them – that have helped to change the university and contributed to its status as a leader in sustainability.
So, is solar energy the energy source of the future? There certainly are pros and cons to the method, but do the positives outweigh the negatives or vice versa? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Photos: Solarkiosk Facebook
Alyssa Evans is a journalism and sociology student at Western Washington University who is passionate about improving the world through spreading information and volunteering.