Solar power will play a key role in meeting future energy needs

Morning View
Morning View

You only need to have been out and about in some of the recent sunshine in Northern Ireland to be reminded of the power of the sun, let alone take a summer holiday in southern Europe.

Now technology is improving rapidly to make it possible to take advantage of this power on a large scale.

Two developments yesterday illustrated this exciting advance in science.

Solar power was said to have supplied 16 per cent of the UK’s electricity during the afternoon as the country basked in sunshine, according to solar industry estimates.

There are now said to be more than 709,000 solar installations across UK, ranging from large solar farms to home roof panels.

The solar industry has set out how it believes the government can double the amount of solar and make it as cheap as fossil fuel electricity by 2020.

The second development was news that a solar powered plane had landed in Hawaii after a flight across the Pacific.

The zero-fuel Solar Impulse 2 completed a four day and 22 hour flight from Nagoya in Japan, powered only by the solar panels on its wings.

This is a stunning achievement, with huge ramifications for future travel. The day when major jet planes are powered by solar may be very distant, but it is clear that solar will be at least able to play a part in powering vehicles of all descriptions, and so cut harmful emissions.

Solar power now produces up to seven per cent of the power needs of a country as energy-thirsty as Germany, which is hardly a nation that enjoys an abundance of sunshine.

Think then of the potential of solar to transform lives in the most impoverished continent in the world, Africa, which has massive amounts of sunshine.

Amid countless threats to the global environment, the successes of solar provide some welcome good news and hope.