It’s clear that building a sustainable future is more important than ever, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters across the world.
Extreme, deadly hurricanes (Irma, Harvey and Maria), and devastating fires have caused billions of dollars in damage, killed people, and uprooted many more. Climate change is not a potential harm that will impact us down the road — it’s happening all around us right now.
“The world has been too slow to reduce our massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions, which has left us dealing with a myriad of consequences like sea level rise, droughts and an increase of extreme weather and overall temperatures,” according to an article by Ohio University’s civil engineering department.
But there is hope. How is sustainable energy being used in areas that need it the most? Here are three examples:
Hurricane Maria has exposed the long standing environmental problems and a weak power grid in a country that has been dependent on fossil fuels. Most of Puerto Rico is still without water and power, and people across the island are drinking water contaminated with sewage. The AP reports that their water purification systems have failed in the wake of the storm.
Rebuilding what was lost is only a short-term solution. It will also require addressing sustainability in a country that’s struggling to survive. The solar industry wants to build Puerto Rico’s entire energy grid. SunRun has sent more than 12,000 pounds of solar products and equipment; Elon Musk’s Tesla sent hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems; and the Solar Energy Industries Association has received pledges for more than $1.2 million in product and monetary contributions from its members, according to Bloomberg.com.
A simple solution is installing solar panels on residents’ roofs, so that people are able to restore their own power in the aftermath of a catastrophic storm. At least one Puerto Rican farmer was able to do just that. He managed to restore power with the solar panels he installed before the storm.
Solar energy does not cause pollution, is reliable, and is one of the most common renewable energy sources available. Homes can be powered without wasting our earth’s natural resources. It simply makes sense to use solar paneling.
Microgrids have the ability to weather extreme storms. So when the water recedes, a smaller grid that serves a neighborhood or a campus is easier to bring back to life.
Most of us take for granted that we can simply turn on a light switch, charge a cell phone, or crank up the air conditioning when it gets too hot. However, in Rwanda, less than 20 percent of the population live in homes with electricity, a fact that perpetuates poverty.
A group of graduates from London have helped thousands of people across Africa to access energy from the sun and get off the grid because they realized the grid will never be able to supply electricity to those who don’t currently have it. It’s too expensive and people are too poor to afford the needed infrastructure.
The students from Imperial College of London along with BBOXX, a London-based company that brings off-grid electricity to developing countries, have brought power to about 130,000 homes and businesses in 35 countries. By 2020, they are reaching for more than a million. BBOX manufactures, installs and affordably loans out reliable, efficient solar-powered chargers. For a few dollars a month, customers can get the power they need, and even watch TV.
Renewable energy projects — onshore wind, solar and hydro — are transforming the coast of Scotland. Hywind is the world’s first full-scale floating wind farm, 25k out to sea from Peterhead. Meanwhile under the sea, three tidal stream turbines recently set a new global record from a tidal stream energy project.
In the first six months of 2017, enough power was generated by wind turbines to supply more power than Scotland needed for six days, according to the article in insider.co.uk.
These types of projects are part of Scotland’s overall energy strategy, a draft of which is expected by the end of 2017. The country’s vision expands out to 2050. The energy strategy, supplied from renewable resources, targets 50 percent of Scotland’s electricity and heat consumption.
In the U.S., the renewables industry is creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy. In fact, solar and wind accounted for almost as many jobs as the entire U.S. industry in 2016.
Solar and wind are leading the charge in sustainable energy. According to Power Scout, the job of “wind turbine technician” is the fastest growing profession in the U.S., with sustainability careers representing 4 million jobs nationally. In solar energy, more than 373,000 Americans worked part- or full time. Our future depends on energy conservation now – and for future generations.
Avery Phillips is a magical unicorn of a human being who loves everything human. She’s a fiery socialist and would love to talk about it. Tweet her @A_taylorian or comment below.