There is one natural resource that deserves gratitude every single day. That is the mighty Sun.
In fact, it is the Sun that brings forth a day.
Its rays empower every living being on the planet. So, it does not surprise that a number of functions run through it.
It is because of the Sun that we can see. Thus, the demand for an alternative source of light crops up during night time.
This led the mankind to source for the Sun’s alternative during night. That is how the invention of artificial lights took place.
The light bulbs run on electricity. Fossil fuels are the major source of producing electricity.
The burning of fuels to produce power creates a massive damage to nature. Not to mention that these harmful fuel sources are on the verge of completion as well.
Continuation of dependence on fossil fuels to produce power is hazardous and risky. Though, since the discovery of alternative sources of energy production. The mankind has had some relief.
Natural resources like Water, Wind, and Sun are excellent resources to generate power.
Out of these 3, in particular, Sun is of great benefits. Though, it is a natural resource like other 2. It scores more on availability than the rest.
Except for the polar regions. There is no dearth of the sunshine on the planet.
This makes a reason to utilize the power of Sun to light the world.
Thus, since a decade, the use of solar powered products is on a rise.
Countries like Germany and Morocco lead the pack. Their majority of energy demands get fulfilled by Solar.
Furthermore, there are also nations that exploit more from the solar energy. They use it to bring social benefits while generating power.
3 instances of Social benefits of solar energy
1. Women entrepreneurs in rural Africa
Nations in Africa rank the lowest in the World for purchasing par parity (PPP). As much as 17 African countries rank lowest in global GDP per capita figures.
Central African Republic (CAR) has the lowest GDP/ capita with USD 652.
In comparison, the Asian developing nations seem wealthy. India with USD 6,616 and Bangladesh with USD 3,891 have a better PPP health.
Despite the economic aid by institutions like World bank. The continent is still in debt. Poverty and lack of education add to their misery.
Alongside comes initiatives like Solar Sister that endeavor to bring a change.
Solar Sister is a not for profit initiative by Katherine Lucey. She is a former investment banker.
Her social enterprise provides opportunity for rural women to become solar products entrepreneur. The setup works much like cosmetics MLM networks like Avon and Oriflame.
Women become a business development associate with Solar Sister for an enrollment fee. Then, they earn a commission by selling their solar products. The products include – solar lamps, chargers and cooking stoves.
Following ills get a facelift with these products:
- Toxic fumes from kerosene stoves
- Dependence on electricity
- Availability of only the day time for work
- Hazards of fire due to kerosene
- Expenses of kerosene purchase
When pain points due to poor electricity and dependence on kerosene improve. It translates to better health and education. Along comes the avenue to earn a livelihood.
Sales commissions from Solar Sister are in the range of 10% – 20 %.
The social impact of this micro-financing model has brought in the following developments:
Improvement in health due to replacement of soot producing stoves to cleaner ones
Access to light in far-flung rural areas without dependence on electricity
Lower carbon footprints in the respective habitat
Children get more time to study
Reduced hassles to finish important chores during day time
Increase in family’s economic condition
Women become independent and self-sufficient
Access to electricity has improved in African countries. Source: Worldbank
Over the years, countries in Africa have shown a rise in access to electricity. Solar Sister serves as another hope of positivity to the situation.
With more women donning the entrepreneur hats. The improvements in GDP figures of African countries seems hopeful.
Thus, economic benefits of solar power lead to a better life.
2. Empowering remote hospitals
Healthcare requires technology for smooth operations. Advanced surgical equipment is a must for delivering medical services. These equipment run on power. At times, even 24 x 7 all round the year.
At remote off-grid locations. Even the basic facilities such as access to electricity are unimaginable. So, they depend on diesel fueled generators for meeting their power needs. Thus, medical care becomes an expensive privilege. Associated environmental damages are the bottlenecks too.
This situation is common to developing nations. But few remote locations in Nepal are outliers to this misfortune.
They are replacing diesel powered generators with solar power installations. Thereby counting off intermittent energy supply by the grid. And also the dependence on alternative options of generators.
SunFarmer, a US-based nonprofit helps with this initiative. They install and maintain solar systems for public service facilities. That includes hospitals, schools, and farming.
The nonprofit provides finance and technical support for solar system integration. This has a direct impact on improving the health and social condition of remote places.
The major turnarounds include:
- Reduced instances of casualty cases transferred to urban cities
- Hospitals can now stock on medicines and supplies in refrigerators
- No more hustles of performing medical surgeries during day time
- Schools get electricity supply
- Agriculture practices get a boost
This model has had a huge success.
In 2016, SunFarmer generated about 116 MW of energy. Education and health are its biggest energy recipients. Though, earthquake relief operations were the new entry for last year.
Nepal’s hilly terrain makes the operations for Sunfarmer cumbersome. Despite that, their project is successful. This brings hope to replicate social benefits of solar energy for other regions.
3. Drinking Water in Mexico
What if you get to drink soda every day? No water. Only soda. I bet even the celebrities endorsing soda brands will back out from such a proposition.
That worse is the situation for certain rural places.
The subject of study is a village La Mancalona on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. The village has a grave water scarcity.
It is in close proximity to Mayan ruins. Thus, the tourist influx brings in abundant soda and bottled water.
Soda is inexpensive, but not good for health. While the bottled water is not affordable. That brings in a bone of contention for residents of the village.
The area has no access to potable water. But with the help from MIT students. The residents got a solar-powered purification system.
Due to that solar powered water system. Now the village produces about 1000 liters of clean water every day. That is a big relief for 450 residents.
The system can work on reverse osmosis, nanofiltration, and electrodialysis technologies.
Water collected from rain and well passes through filtration membranes via a pump. Thereby processing out clean and purified water.
Solar panels generate power to pumps that push water to the filtration process.
The system is easy to operate and maintain. Ultraviolet lights and filters require regular upkeep. The residents manage that themselves.
Solar powered filtration has brought in huge savings. As the bottled water costs 10 times to the price of purified water.
Moreover, the local residents are now making a business of selling water. The tourists are their biggest consumers.
Within 2 years of the solar water filtration setup. There is a complete turnaround to the situation of the village.
Children do not develop deformations as they get clean water to drink. Due to clean water, farming and water selling business are thriving too.
Thus, the people of the Mexico village are in complete control of their destiny.
Moreover, they also foresee a better future. Since they now discover more novel applications of solar energy.
This model is worth a replication in other parts of the World.
A major portion of the World is below the average PPP figures. Bringing up their GDP will up the universal average figures.
Education and health play a crucial role in development. A successful social development model at a macroeconomics level ought to have these.
With the power of Sun. A positive change is possible. Safer cooking gadgets, cleaner water, better medical facilities pave the way.
The case studies in this article are a testament to the available options.
With regular advancements in technology. A variety of social benefits of solar energy are possible. Those are much beyond power banks and calculators.
For sure, social impacts of solar energy are here to stay. So, let us keep innovating more in that direction.
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Header Image : Pixabay