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Power to the Sun: Solar Power and Our Earth’s Future

by Noel Painter | Harvard University

F Posted in: News and Politics, Voices P Posted on: August 8, 2012
Noel Painter Noel Painter

Solar power is one of the most popular choices when it comes to alternative energy due to its availability and reliability. While the world’s oil consumption continues to skyrocket, so does the demand for alternative energy sources. More and more countries, even those who export oil, are starting to see the monetary benefits in producing renewable energy.

The most recent solar power venture is being attempting by four countries in Northern Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, with all four planning to build plants of their own. Algeria, not known for its reliable renewable energy, is making the biggest contribution out of all of these countries, hoping to produce 650 MW of solar power by 2015. They plan to take this even further and produce 22,000 MW by 2030.

To put this into perspective, Germany, the world leader in solar power, produces 9,785 MW of solar energy. Algeria’s goal, more than twice than that of Germany’s, is very lofty, considering that this country is an active member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). While there is skepticism around Algeria’s true intentions regarding this solar power initiative, they deserve praise and should serve as an example to other nations. Even with a precarious government, they have still shown a commitment to an immense project that will significantly impact the solar power world. I hope they prove skeptics wrong.

Even with these commitments from Northern Africa, we have not even begun to tap all of the solar power potential that is available across the globe. However, even with this recent renewable push, we are not going to be able to switch from oil to alternative energy in a few years; our society is too dependent, and it will take decades.

How often do you think about the gas you use when driving? Oil is ingrained in our society, and few people give any thought to how much gas they use and the emissions they produce on a daily basis. Even though I try and be very conscious about the environment, I still find myself taking unnecessary trips in the car. Little things such as riding a bike or carpooling will go so far in helping wean our country and world off of oil.

Imagine if gas prices were $12 a gallon, how motivated would you be to take public transit, carpool, or buy an energy efficient car? I know that I would try even harder to find better and greener ways to get around on a day-to-day basis. We have to take baby steps and start small, otherwise this venture will become overwhelming. Take one day a week and try to drive less or make more of an effort to find a buddy for the carpool lane. It might sound insignificant; however, think about how much of an impact it will have if a whole city or country gets on board.

I can’t help feeling that St. Francis of Assisi had it right, despite hundreds of years of history, when it comes to decreasing oil consumption and increasing alternative energy use: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Noel Painter Noel Painter Noel is a sophomore at Harvard University where she is studying Environmental Science and Public Policy.

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