That’s almost 1 in 5 people across the world, and many more do not have regular electricity supplies and are affected by continual power cuts and black outs. Bringing reliable electricity to these people will make a huge difference to their lives. Solar power is a wonderful way of achieving this, especially in rural communities in sunny places like Africa and India, and could allow these places to completely bypass the use of fossil fuels and go straight to using modern, renewable energy.
Electricity can be used in rural communities for refrigeration of medicines or to power water-purifying machines. These are life-saving applications so the electricity supply must be reliable and not be prone to power cuts. It is extremely important that the electricity supply in hospitals, for example, is reliably consistent. Solar power can be used reliably during the day to power the machines and charge batteries that can keep them running at night. This means the community does not have to travel hours to a city for urgent medicines or drink unsafe water.
It is not just developing countries that have problems with water. Inland communities in places like Australia often have trouble finding clean drinking water. Solar-powered desalination units can be used to pump brackish (salty) and dirty water through filters to remove harmful bacteria and salt to make it safer and nicer to drink. Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh are developing these units and currently testing them in Australia.
Currently, for many the only way to see at night time is to use kerosene or gas lamps that use fuel which is expensive and produces smoke and fumes that damage the lungs and present a fire risk. The lights are also dim and strain the eyes. If these could be replaced with electric lighting from solar-powered rechargeable batteries that charge during the day then it would have a huge impact. Adults and children could work or study at night cheaply and safely, improving their ability to learn more or earn more money. Solar street lights can also be used so that people can walk around safely at night or in schools to help children study.
Electricity can also power sewing machines, fridges (for meat or cold drinks), mobile phones and provide lighting in shops and restaurants. Many businesses currently use diesel generators which are expensive to run and constantly break down. Being able to power appliances with reliable electricity generated from the sun, businesses can attract more customers, seamstresses can make clothes faster with electric sewing machines and trading can quicker and easier with a fully charged mobile phone. This gives workers a better ability to make enough money to feed and clothe their large families, send them to school and look after them well.
As well as social benefits in developing countries, solar energy will have a huge impact on all of our lives in the Future.