“Use of solar energy is near a solution”. This was the headline in the New York Times on 4 April 1931. It turned out to be a premonition, since, 80 years later and electricity is being supplied to millions of human beings in the world from renewable energies such as solar. Humanity has now declared its readiness to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, conscious of the finite nature of fossil fuels and their prejudicial effects on the environment as the main cause of global warming.
As the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda chimed in El Sol: “I am a man of light, of so much rose, such predestined clarity, I will die from shining”. Solar energy, on the other hand, will never die of shining, since the Sun still has 6.5 billion years of life according to NASA. Indeed, in rather less time, solar technology in some countries has evolved to compete with conventional sources of electricity generation. In just a few decades’ time, it will become the major part of a sustainable energy system for the world.
Additionally, the conditions for the development of solar energy could not be more perfect: the Sun bathes the Earth hourly with enough light and heat to fulfill global needs for a whole year; in other words, solar radiation can satisfy our energy needs 4,000 times over.
As the publication Renewable Energies Info estimates, the Earth’s surface receives 120,000 Terawatts of solar irradiation, “which represents 20,000 times more power than the whole planet needs”. Backing this argument further, the Union of Concerned Scientists says that as little as 18 days of solar irradiation on Earth contains as much energy as all the world’s coal, oil and natural gas reserves put together.
The NYT article put forward the suggestion that Humanity “will no longer have to fear the exhaustion of coal reserves foreseen within the next few hundred years, if Dr Lange’s theory is right”. Well, the words of German solar energy scientist, Dr Bruno Lange, back in 1931, have been proven right.