The Adaptability of Alternative Energy … When Can It Happen?

A couple of years ago, my wife and I visited the southern coast of Costa Rica. The area was beautiful and it was rugged. In fact, the main town, Puerto Jiminez, just had electricity installed the year before. With dirt roads in town and dirt roads in every direction out of town, there was no doubt that this was the frontier.
Our lodging of choice was even farther into the rain forest during this time. One and a half hours driving on dirt roads, through rivers (dry during this season) and over hills next to the coast always keeping our eyes open for the caiman and salt water crocs known for this area.
When we arrived at our home for a couple of weeks, we found that there were no electrical wires following the road, no street lights and the lights in the homes were used sparingly. Definitely, this is not the resort area of travel brochures.
What I found in the area is that if any of the homes, or small lodges wanted to have electricity, they had three choices: hydroelectricity, solar power, or generator power. With all of the talk of solar power at home, I finally saw the practical use of solar power with refrigerators, lighting and general every day activities of a home.
During the past three years, there has been much discussion about alternative power sources to help the country with its energy needs. Ideas have ranged from wind power to solar power to nuclear power. Each has benefits, while a few have some fears attached to the use (ie nuclear power).
There hasn??Ÿ?¦Ÿ??t been a lot of movement on any of the energy fronts, although there have been some attempts to develop industries.
Looking to 2012 and Beyond
Personally, with my introduction to practical solar power in Costa Rica, I am a believer that it can be done. The question is, how can it be adopted on a large scale? In order to be used in a home, solar power needs to economically provide power for refrigeration, lighting, heating and miscellaneous electrical needs in a household.
In my simple mind, if I still must have power from the power utilities, then there is no benefit for me to spend $30,000 or more on a solar system to power my house. I believe the underlying problem in widespread adaptability is the price tag to be environmentally friendly.
I believe that each of us in building a home would look for the best and most economical way to provide power for our family. If it is connecting to the utility power grid, then that is the direction we will go. If we can provide our needs with solar power at a reasonable price, then I believe we would choose that route. (Side benefit is more independence from government burdens.)
Possible Solutions
When it comes to solar power, there are a couple of thoughts that come to my mind. One is an idea that I saw in action on an island recently. There were neighborhood solar farms is the best way to describe it. On four or five acres, solar panels were arranged in rows and followed the path of the sun to enjoy the greatest benefits of solar energy. There were several of these ??Ÿ?¦?farms??Ÿ?¦? that I passed and all seemed to be associated with a development, or small community. Is this a new concept that developers could look into for their communities to create practical avenues for people to use solar power?
Another thought has to do with the manufacturing of the solar power systems themselves. Can manufacturers quickly develop more economical ways to build solar panels and the entire systems to help the widespread use?
You have the early adapters with anything. Those people who will spend the big bucks to buy the first. Unfortunately, I know about this, the first cell phone I purchased was $900 out of my pocket ??Ÿ?¦?? ouch! However, now cell phones are free or next to nothing if you wish. There are still expensive phones, but it doesn??Ÿ?¦Ÿ??t matter where you live, or who you might be, there is access to pretty much anyone who wants one.
The economical aspect of solar power needs to be a real value, not just a government rebate. Honestly, $1,500 savings on $30,000 is not that much. It is still expensive.
When we get the prices out of the stratosphere with solar power, then we will see the adaptation in everyday life where each of us can see the benefits.


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