Solar energy is used for heating water for domestic use, heating buildings, drying agricultural products, and generating electrical energy. Solar panels are used in some homes to convert the sun’s rays into electricity. Although not sold commercially, solar-powered vehicles can be found at demonstrations and educational sites globally. Solar cars use PV cells to convert the sun’s energy directly into electrical energy.
Solar power—and other clean and renewable energy sources—has the potential to make a huge impact on the 1.6 billion people around the world who live without access to electricity. Several organizations are working to promote sustainable energy programs in the world’s developing countries. Solar Energy International is one such organization; it works to promote sustainability, educate children about solar energy, engineer solar projects, and more around the world.
Another organization, Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), provides technical and financial assistance for solar power and wireless communications in developing countries and rural areas, including Nigeria, Nepal and Vietnam. In India, which is densely populated but has an underdeveloped electricity infrastructure, a $9 billion plan was announced in mid-2009 to produce 20 GW of solar power by 2020. The plan, dubbed the National Solar Mission, would provide solar-powered lighting for 3 million homes by 2012 and prevent 42 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The plan could have a great positive effect on the country, where 56% of the population does not have electricity.
Kenya is home to more solar power systems per capita than any other country. The people of Kenya buy more than 30,000 small solar panels every year, each panel producing 12-30 watts. Many Kenyans opt for this power source rather than trying to tap into the country’s unreliable power grid.