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Nadja Kirchhof

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Solar Energy – preventing global warming by tapping the power of the Sun

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Global warming is a well-known issue. Everyone is aware of melting ice caps at the North and South Poles. Former US Vice-President Al Gore’s fought to shine a light on climate change. Today, Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement have raised international awareness of this existentially important topic. Average global surface temperatures are already over 1°C higher than in the pre-industrial world. This is the direct result of burning fossil fuels. Analysts urge that policies must change. This figure will otherwise increase to well over 4°C by the end of the century.

Solar panels in a city. Skyscrapers can be seen in the background.

Solar panels in a city point towards a greener future.

The move away from fossil fuels must occur in parallel to a huge increase in demand for energy. By 2100, the global population is expected to be another 50% larger than it is today. This means that we will have to tap into a wide range of low-emission energy sources to avoid catastrophic consequences. Nuclear energy was once a cause of great optimism. Unfortunately, high-profile catastrophes in Chernobyl and Fukushima shone a light on the safety limitations of nuclear power. This led to a huge public backlash. In the last few years, other sources have shown real promise. On April 22, 2019, renewable energy sources met Germany’s entire energy needs for the day. These were predominantly wind power from farms in the country’s north, and solar power in the warmer south. In the UK, renewables provided more energy than fossil fuels over the entire third quarter of this year.

The solar panel – an in-built generator

Solar power has seen a huge evolution over the past few decades. The price of a photovoltaic module has fallen by 99% over the past 40 years. Solar has the additional advantage over other renewable sources that appliances do not need a connection to the electricity grid. They can harness the power of the sun directly where it is needed. A solar panel attached to a device acts as an in-built generator. Analysts predict, that solar energy could one day meet all of mankind’s energy needs. For this we need improved technology, reformed financial incentives from government, and more resilient energy grids.

Deutsche Telekom has already released solar-powered products. T-Systems’ solution for Smart Cities, the Smart Bench, provides internet access for citizens. It allows them to charge their mobile devices. The energy for this comes from the sun via in-built solar panels. The solar power is also used to power digital display screens. This reduces cities’ energy costs even further. The possibilities for urban centres are huge: the sun could power lighting, citizens’ info dashboards, or charging solutions. This reduces municipalities’ carbon footprint and slashes energy costs.

This is only the start of a trend. A stark change in consumer behaviour is underway. This shift seems at least partly generational. Governments are also facing up to their responsibilities by setting ambitious carbon-reduction targets. They are changing economic incentives for better ecological outcomes. Natural disasters, flooding and crop failure in vulnerable regions will raise the real and present costs of temperature rises. This will only sharpen focus further. These forces will lead to more companies seeking to build ecological products. This includes solar-powered products. This offers economic opportunities for firms. The demand for resource-saving technologies is growing: according to a 2016 by Roland Berger, the size of the market for the environmentally friendly generation, storage and distribution of energy was worth 79 billion Euros in Germany alone.

So, feel free to share this blog post. Spread awareness of existing solar-powered solutions and help concentrate industry minds going forward.

Futuristische Skyline

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