The sun is one of our best sources of energy on earth! It's free, it doesn't pollute our air, and it keeps on shining. We've used this "solar energy" for years as a passive source of light and heat during the daylight hours.
More people these days are experimenting with solar energy.They place solar collectors on the roofs of buildings. These collectors focus light energy from the sun and magnify its strength many thousands of times. As air or water in the collectors is heated, it is pumped through the building, or stored until needed. Solar collectors not only heat buildings, but also supply hot water for a home or business. Solar energy is especially useful in remote areas where their is no electricity grid.
Solar cookers, Solar lamps, Solar fridges, solar radios and solar hearing aids are new items entering the market. Mounted on a solar panel, these cigarette packet-sized hearing aids can be produced at half cost of a normal device. Great news for sufferers in rural areas in India where batteries are hard to get.
New uses for solar energy are creating new enthusiasm in various parts of India. Officials responsible for the giant operations of milk-chilling want to know if technologists anywhere use solar photovoltaics for bulk milk chilling.
It is not only solar energy that holds out promises, but other forms of alternative energies too. The Vajra Foundation, working to promote solar cooking in the nearby northern country of Nepal, finds the technology of mud brick ovens ("adobe cookers") are much suited for some remote dry areas of the Himalayas.
One senior government official from Sikkim in eastern India inquires about the fuel-efficient crematorium. Other officials query about the location of small hydropower projects in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, northern India.
Solar cookers too come in various shapes and sizes. From France come those that look like a table with something strange protruding. Ladakh in northern India has solar cookers that look like a satellite-dish antenna. Other models come in from the Philippines, Nepal and the Dominican Republic too.
New information and support comes in from the channels of communication now opening up globally.
Despite some problems with alternative energy, its Indian supporters take heart from positive signals coming in from various parts of the globe.
Solar power and other renewable energy sources are seeing technological advances that are making them cost effective. Rapid growth is projected.
Solar photovoltaic cells are still two to five times as costly as power from the grid. Yet, the sale of solar photovoltaic cells expanded 42 per cent last year. If annual production grows by 25 per cent a year, solar capacity could reach 106,000 megawatts by 2020, generating as much as 30 to 40 large nuclear plants. Since 1980, the price of solar cells has fallen by 80 per cent.
Grant Ballard-Tremeer1 September 2003
Dr Karabi Dutta 07 September 2003