by Lucy Armstrong
People wonder why embark on such a project as this? Here is my answer, an ode to our current times:
What do we see when we look to the stars? Celestial bodies of fire and fury, fuelling our ancestors’ imaginations, inspiring traditions and the advent of scientific innovation and exploration. We carry that sense of wonder with us in a cultural subconscious, awed at the painterly chaos the Hubble telescope captures with its lenses, or spellbound by our own eyes on a night illuminated with constellations. Folklore and discovery sings to us, with the lure of ancient sagas and space travel – past and present – ever looming.
To our generation, space travel and habitation is still a revolutionary aspiration – one which preserves that reverence and humility with the stars. But what of our own star, that unfailing beacon of warmth which promises life at dawn? We have sown and reaped by its seasons for aeons, a ritualistic cohabitation that has determined the rise and fall of civilizations with the ebb and flow of grain and riverbeds, and now with the advent of solar energy.
Solar energy is rapidly proving to be a viable renewable resource, with countries like Costa Rica able to produce enough energy – alongside wind power – to sustain the entire nation. As the mass production of solar farms and PV panels increase and the technology continues to diversify, solar energy is no longer a luxury gimmick to be fetishized by the environmentally-curious affluent, but it is becoming democratized and accessible to communities around the globe.
This is essential for obvious reasons: the climate crisis we currently face, and the much under-stated, inevitable resource shortage; in an economy which globally continues to rely primarily on fossil fuels, this is a fatal mistake, and one which will, as we have discovered with past civilizations, result in the collapse of society – making it urgent that we establish a foundational infrastructure of renewables before that time comes.
Most of us acknowledge and accept the climate crisis, and yet many of our governments in the Western world wilfully ignore the impact of this havoc. We force pipelines through sacred territory of First Nations and Native Americans’ land. We see droughts, fires, and floods tear away homes and livelihoods of people who become climate refugees, along with those who share the burden of trying to revive an infertile land which has passed its fruit-bearing days. Our rich biodiversity is deteriorating and those who herald it – the bees and the corals – are vanishing. We’ve known the foreboding signals – from the speculative warnings from the science fiction writers who are attuned to the world and render it in a dystopian form, to the legitimate, factual research of the climate scientists who are pleading with governments to take solid action over lip-service and forgo their less-conscientious corporate allies.
The climate crisis is an existential one, and it is no wonder those of us who share this awareness experience a level of anxiety and grief for future generations. It is no wonder we take to the streets in impassioned yet peaceful protest.
Yet if there is one attribute of the human species which has allowed us to survive as an animal and flourish as a civilization, it is the ability to adapt. In the current social landscape, we will adapt – we have no choice. But we do have a choice in how to adapt – whether it is through desperate means and a further divide between economic classes, then geographic ones as monetary structure collapses – or whether we celebrate our capacity for innovation and take on the challenge of pushing our society to that next evolved level and inhabit a world which offers an enlightened alternative to energy consumption and the cultural revolution which occurs alongside it.
Critics will scorn this idealism, but let me make this clarification – it is because I am a pessimist that I believe so strongly in ventures which support this ideal because I understand that our survival depends upon it. I want to stress that this bleak worldview is not without possibility, and much of that comes with changing our individual/social/cultural mindset and approach to how energy is produced. The first step is accepting that this approach originates with our own convictions, that it is up to us to hold firm pressure on our governments for change. The next is to reach out and show that solutions are not only possible but profitable in multitudinous ways, while acknowledging the challenge that no new technology is infallible but always open for betterment. And if we can demonstrate this across numerous sectors, we already hold an advantage.
Solar energy – perhaps the most obvious gift we have been granted by nature – is neither hubris or non-practical. It is an alternative which is infinite and shows potential to democratize the (literal and figurative) power struggle and empower communities around the world, reducing hunger and poverty. And this can be achieved through commercial as well as charitable and governmental endeavours if we ensure that accessibility and feasibility is key.
One of the most fantastical, yet sensible concepts to come to light (no pun intended) is making solar energy transferable via satellite, enabling safe, low-wave transmissions to where the resource is most needed. We have already seen a similar technology in practice with wireless chargers in our own home. This is ushering in a “bigger” concept, utilizing the speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of satellites to achieve a cohesive distribution system that is fair and attainable.
But why use satellites? The answer seems obvious – they are already optimised with solar technology and are self-sustaining, the technology is familiar, and they provide an efficient back-up for the grid which can be used regularly or in urgent scenarios. Like wireless technology, wireless energy is the next logical step in tech innovation, but most importantly, the use of satellites to transmit energy is a step towards achieving the next level of civilization.
The impact this could have – if managed responsibly – will greatly benefit communities around the world suffering from an energy shortage, but most importantly, it changes the nature of our social narrative. It is the next step in recognizing that not only are there solutions, but these solutions can be accessible to everyone.