The team found that those countries can generate as much as 448.9 petawatt hour of solar energy, about 41 times the demand for electricity in those countries in 2016. Handout.

The state of Hawaii, an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean southwest of the continental United States and southeast of Japan, was admitted to the American union on August 21, 1959, making it the 50th state of the USA. Its capital is Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. The most recent census (2018) puts the state’s population at 1.42 million.

Hawaii, with lots of sun but no oil, has already stepped ahead of other US states in the race toward clean energy. Legislation requiring all new homes to have solar water heaters has been passed. The legislation goes beyond the rebates and tax credits that other states and cities are offering. Some conservatives say it is a heavy-handed government mandate to go green, but it will save people money – cutting about US$1,000 a year from the electricity bill of an average home in Hawaii. For a state that has the nation’s highest electricity rates and an abundance of sunlight, this move seems natural.

Given the state’s environmental and political problems, many people in Hawaii feel that the initiative for clean energy is encouraging, as the per capita consumption of oil in Hawaii is more than in any other US state.

There are other reasons for which the Hawaiians are happy – the use of solar panels minimizes their dependence on fossil fuels imported from other countries. The fossil-fuel supplies on which the US relies for its energy are dwindling, and becoming increasingly expensive and politically costly. According to the Hawaiian legislature, the US desperately needs to reduce its dependence on oil and other fossil fuels and move toward clean, renewable energy. Hawaii is the best-suited state in the US to lead the change. The state ranks third in annual sunlight, pays the highest electricity rates in the nation and relies primarily on imported and highly polluting energy sources.

As energy prices increase and the world becomes more aware of the problems of global warming, rising sea levels and air pollution, locations such as the islands of Hawaii with a good and free source of solar energy have an excellent solution to reduce the environmental effects of fossil fuels with residential solar panels and solar power systems. Solar panels are mounted on a building or can be free-standing for any location where a reduction in power bills are needed. Hawaii’s solar-power incentives are excellent compared with many states, with improving energy efficiency and reducing dependence on imported oil firmly on the state government agenda.

Fossil fuels and global warming

Emissions from power plants that run on fossil fuels are a major contributor to global warming. Scientists tell us that a failure to respond to the climate crisis will lead to rising sea levels, more severe weather patterns and increased rates of communicable diseases. The time for debate is over. Investing in renewable energy now will yield big dividends to our world’s well-being in the future.

The sooner our transition toward renewable energy happens, the better off we’ll all be. Solar energy is a particularly promising technology. Clean, quiet, reliable and requiring virtually no maintenance, solar energy produces electricity during the time of day when it is most needed. And unlike most energy technologies, it has the advantage of producing power in the same place it’s consumed.

Solar power in Bangladesh – a bright idea

Bangladesh is a perfect environment for solar power, as the sun shines most of the time. Its local utility supports the purchase and installation of solar systems with generous rebates and solar tax credits from the government, as is done in Hawaii.

Solar panels in the past used to be made of silicon but as silicon is becoming more expensive, research has turned to other materials. Lately, a whole new type of solar panel is being produced. They are made of plastic and the price is comparatively low. These plastic panels work just as well to power just about any appliance that is used in a home out in a remote location.

Solar panels are mostly placed on the roof. The power generated is transmitted to a battery for storage and household power needs are drawn from this storage. Solar energy is also most suitable for heating water for household use, swimming pools and hot tubs.

The best thing about solar power is that it does not release harmful emissions or effluents leading to global warming, acid rain and smog. The utility of solar panels is great. Having solar panels installed in the home, people can live anywhere, even in rural areas, without forgoing the conveniences of the city and without having to install expensive electrical-line extensions from noisy generators.

Bangladesh can therefore benefit from the experience of Hawaii’s solar systems – where a solar system has been proved to be the environmentally and economically sound choice for power generation and heating water in residential complexes.

Dr Rashed Chowdhury is currently an adjunct faculty in the Arizona State University (School of Sustainable Engineering). He is a former Principal Scientist at the Pacific ENSO Applications Climate Center of the University of Hawaii. His primary work is focused on the critical issues of water, climate, and society.

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