It is now almost impossible to talk about clean energy without mentioning solar energy. Not surprising as with its well known application of solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays, it can produce low-carbon electricity for homes and businesses alike free from thw harmful consequences of it non-green counterpart. However, even as solar PV efficiencies rise, and costs drop, solar electricity is still out of reach for many people, as it requires a considerable up-front investment, as well as knowledgeable designers, manufacturers, and installers.
In many developing countries, small-scale solar, which can be used for lighting and charging mobile devices, is one of the solar technologies within reach of low-income residents, and while it can certainly fill some of the energy needs of people (such as a clean light source to replace kerosene, and to keep cell phones charged up), it’s only one piece of the energy puzzle.
Another larger energy demand is for producing heat, whether it’s for cooking or water sterilization, which is often met by using electricity (at the risk of regular blackouts and high costs) or wood (which contributes to deforestation and indoor air pollution), but there is a viable and sustainable alternative solution in the form of solar thermal technology. Using the sun’s rays directly, without the need for expensive and complex components, is a perfect fit for quite a bit of the developing world’s energy needs, as well as being an appropriate technology even in First World countries.
One organization that is moving the needle on accessible and affordable solar technologies for the developing world is GoSol.
GoSol employs the use of simple, scalable solar thermal technology so that people everywhere in the world will be able to harvest and use energy — for free, without air pollution, independent of electric power or fuel availability because solar concentrators are the number one technology for a direct solar economy.
An example of a success story is this baker (watch video for full story).
Using solar energy directly, instead of as an input to a complex solar electricity system, offers a range of benefits to users, from being able to construct the systems from locally available materials, to providing what is essentially free fuel for the life of the system, to reducing air pollution and health hazards. GoSol is demonstrating what is possible with several pilot projects, including a solar bakery and a peanut butter cooperative in Kenya, and is offering up plans for its solar concentrator at a very reasonable cost.