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Ways in Which Renewable Energy Sources Combine with Other Technologies to Improve the World

image credit: eeNews Power

Renewable energy is often touted for its benefits over the legacy fossil fuel generation sources. Namely, renewable energy sources don't emit climate-changing greenhouse gases, nor do they create harmful pollution or waste. Increasingly, renewable energy sources are also gaining the economic edge by being built and deployed for cheaper prices per kWh than their competitors in the coal and gas industries. 

If these benefits weren't enough to be a renewable energy supporter, though, forward-thinking innovators have been pushing some additional benefits that the development of renewable energy technologies. Those inventors and creators are realizing that renewable energy technologies can not only provide benefits to the world in their ability to replace dirty energy generation, but also in some unique new aspects:

One such example of this phenomenon is a Finnish startup (Solar Water Solutions) who has found a way to make ocean water safe to drink with solar power. Desalination is often expensive and very energy-intensive, and when the desalination process is hooked up to a fossil fueled grid, it can bring with it dangerous CO2 emissions and pollutants. At the same time, though, communities are increasingly being starved for resources and desalination provides an opportunity to bring the health and quality of life benefits of clean water to new communities. For example, Solar Water Solutions placed their first system in place in Namibia where the nation is under a prolonged drought because of the lack of rain and associated food shortages. The hope is that this technology could help mitigate these type of situations that lead to crises for populations, and because the running costs are zero for these solar installations the desalinators can be run at all times when the sun shines-- preparing even before drought hits. This type of ingenious application of renewable energy is a great example of how the technology becoming more common and affordable can be used to benefit people in tangible ways.

Another example of applying these principles to bring benefits to real people's lives using renewable energy comes from the push to implement solar-powered cookers in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Cooking using fuelwood and charcoal, as well as for home heating, is identified as one of the notable barriers to this region meeting their development and conservation goals. Where previous attempts to mitigate this concern have failed from a technological and cultural perspective, this most recent push from the non-profit Solar Sister is recruiting women who are community leaders to learn about the solar-powered cookers and heaters and get them to sell the technology themselves. Not only are these women economically empowered in this way, but the solar solutions become more trustworthy and the women can serve as local "nodes" to provide knowledge and training to the rest of the community. 

Both of these ways to utilize solar technology are bringing the benefits of renewable energy to new communities in clever ways. Solar on a utility-scale can help save global emissions and pollution, but the micro scale of solar cookers in rural Africa and the ability to provide clean drinking water through desalination will directly improve the lives of those affected. Are there any other ways or technologies you've seen make a similar direct impact on the lives of those using them?

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