The Solar Revolution: Why bottled sunshine is the fuel of the future
Steve McKevitt & Tony Ryan
The sunshine that hits the Earth in a single hour could meet the world’s food and energy demands for an entire year. If only we could make use of it that is. Solar power is not just about turning sunlight into electricity – we also need a way of capturing and storing it, of moving it around to where it’s needed. Of providing power during the night. In short, we need a way of bottling sunshine so that we can have as much of it as we want, wherever and whenever we like. Solve this, and we will welcome the solar revolution.
Our current coal, oil and gas energy supplies rely on sunshine captured long ago by plants and animals long since fossilised. Harnessing the sun directly would open the way to a future free from the side effects of burning carbon. But that’s not the only reason to look to the sun. By 2050, the world’s population is predicted to rise to some 10 billion individuals. Our energy requirements will nearly double over the same period. Today we are burning through 20 million years of fossil record every year. We use this energy to stock our supermarkets, light our homes and run our businesses. In the long run, we’re going to need to find a new way of powering our lifestyles.
In ‘The Solar Revolution’, Steve McKevitt and Tony Ryan explore this energy problem and the solutions on offer. From nuclear to wind, fossil fuels to sunshine, they look at where our energy comes from and what the issues are with producing it this way or that. They delve into the science that underpins it all as well, explaining exactly how the sun’s rays might be turned into a new liquid fuel to power the world.
Guardian Short cover image from a photograph by Jonathan Kershaw, CC BY 2.0.
This Guardian Short is a companion to a longer work by the authors, The Solar Revolution: One world. One solution. Providing the energy and food for 10 billion people., published by Icon Books. Expanding on some of the issues and science covered in the Guardian Short and delving into new areas, it is available in paperback from the Guardian Bookshop.