EDITION: April - June 2010


Eric Djandjighian

Modern civilization depends hugely on energies, particularly non-renewable ones that sooner or later will run out. However, experts say that the global demand for electricity amounts to only 0,003 % of the total Sun radiation that reaches our planet in a year, and that a surface of 300 square km in the Sahara would be enough to produce electricity for the whole planet. Quotes like that make one think... Why then have we put our planet's habitats at risk by burning fossil fuels that have been underground for thousands of years, spewing millions of tonnes of CO2 and other harmful gases into our delicate atmosphere?

For a long time, carbon from plants and animals was deposited on the earth and compressed into deep layers, keeping it out of the earth's atmosphere. But in the last 160 years we have extracted all that carbon to obtain different fuels, which when burnt release the gases that cause the greenhouse effect and the resulting infamous climate change. For years now, some countries have started to invest in new energy production possibilities. Clean and renewable energies, as they are now called, are one of our biggest interests. A renewable energy is considered to be any energy source that can be exploited by humans in such a way that its reserves will never run out, ie. that it is produced more quickly than it is used. In this sense, there are already a number of ways to exploit natural resources in a sustainable fashion: geothermal energy, solar photovoltaic or thermal energy, hydroelectric power…

The advantages of solar energy are many. It produces electricity or heat directly from solar radiation. It does not have any moving parts nor generates noise. It does not cause high temperatures and does not pollute. Manufacturing solar equipment can be unfriendly to the environment. Ask your installer if his equipment is manufactured in an ecologically friendly way. Solar modules have a long working life. Installations are very flexible, going from a few watts to many megawatts. The source of this energy, our Sun, is free, is everywhere and is inextinguishible in terms of human scale. Therefore, why doubt any further? Let us make the most of this free and clean energy.

Nowadays there are various ways of accessing this endless energy. The two main technologies for domestic use of the Sun's energy are to generate electricity and to heat water. To generate electricity, a combination of photovoltaic panels, a battery charge regulator and an inverter are used. To heat water, a solar thermal collector will generally be linked to a water tank. The benefits of photovoltaic systems which provide electricity to isolated houses have made this the technology of choice for millions of homes around the world. Due to continued improvements in the efficiency of the components and progressively cheaper costs, we believe it will continue to be the most interesting solution. From a practical point of view, reliability and automation make these systems ideal, and from an economic point of view, they are usually a lot more advantageous than a complicated and expensive connection to the grid, bearing in mind also that there will be no future energy bills to pay. Therefore, when comparing the total cost of various alternatives, not only does the cost of installation need to be considered, but also the total savings in electricity for all the years that the system will be working, which means this is a long-term investment. Also, a photovoltaic system can be fully operational in just a few days, and detached or terraced homes that are connected to the grid can expect savings of up to 80% on their bills for the energy used to heat water.

There are many opportunities nowadays to cooperate directly in the reduction of our emissions. We advocate a total renewal of our energy sources. •

Text: Eric Djandjighian - Global Energy Development - Tel. 608 558 099