One of the largest areas to consider if you’re looking at ways to be greener and to reduce your carbon footprint is by looking at the resources that you and your family consume. This can encompass many different areas, such as food, clothing and transportation, but as the weather gets colder, one thing we all begin to use more of is fuel, both for heating and electricity.
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The familiar conventional solar panel that springs to mind when someone mentions solar power could be replaced by the new trend of integrating solar technology into buildings. The increasing popularity for building integrated photovoltaics is aided by the advances in microgeneration technology including solar roof tiles, shingles and even special sheeting that can be incorporated into other building materials which is coated in layers of atomised photovoltaic material.
China has promised to significantly increase renewable energy by 2020 by investing heavily in photovoltaic solar panels. This, along with other green energy initiatives, will see the proportion of renewable energy in China’s energy mix raised from 1.5% to 6%.
Experts at a Copenhagen global warming conference have suggested that installing a network of solar panels in the Sahara desert could satisfy the needs of Europe’s energy demands. Dr Anthony Patt from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Africa commented that this, coupled with the installation of wind turbines grouped in different farms across the north of Africa would be able to provide enough energy for the whole of Europe. He stated that the lower cost of renewable energy combined with the technological advances we have seen of late would make it a viable option for imported energy for the continent.
The huge network of solar panels that would be installed if this plan was approved would work by using a system of mirrors which would focus the sun’s energy on small pipes containing water or salt, and would cover an area the size of “a small country”. The idea is that heat from the sun would either boil the water causing steam, or melt the salt, and the energy produced as a result would be used to drive turbines creating energy that can then be stored for a number of hours, making it better than wind generated power, as wind power is costly to store. It is expected however, that even if the plans are given the green light and funding, that local communities in Europe will not support the laying of transmission cables near to their homes.
The Green Village asks the questions whether, although the pioneering and investigation into using solar power and wind power to meet the needs of European homes and businesses’ energy use is a good sign, is it fair that other countries have to be used to generate this power, or should we instead be doing more to reduce our requirements in the first place? Could plans like this breed complacency towards saving energy because people feel that everything is fine because the Sahara has enough sunlight throughout the year to keep us all going? And if plans do go ahead and it proves be successful, what’s to stop other developed countries wanting to expand the site to another ‘small country’ worth of panels to keep themselves going too? Share your views below.