Energy Transition

How solar powers climate innovation

Magdalena Mis
Production Editor, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Energy Transition

Set against the might of climate change, can small measures like solar-powered batteries or drip irrigation make a difference?

Innovations involving both are among 10 finalists in the 2015 Sustainia Award, an international competition for projects with a potential to address the impact of climate change.

One aims to light up dark corners of Africa through solar power systems paid for via mobile phones.

As an alternative to greenhouse gas-emitting kerosene and diesel generators, the off-grid systems, made by Germany-based Mobisol, are connected to a battery and aspiring entrepreneurs can even pocket some money by selling the excess energy.

For farmers in Kenya struggling with low and unpredictable rainfall and the high cost of fuel to power irrigation pumps, U.S.-based SunCulture offers solar-powered drip irrigation systems, which deliver water directly to the roots of the plans.

The company, which has already installed more than 250 such systems, says they allow water savings of up to 80 percent and yield gains of up to 300 percent.

“To date there has been too much talk and too little action (about sustainability and climate change),” said Esben Alslund-Lanthen, a researcher at Denmark-based sustainability think-tank Sustainia which organised the awards.

“We need people to actually take action on these issues if the world is to be a better place in the future. We hope to be able to inspire other people to take up these ideas and bring them to use in their own context.”

Other innovations include 3D visualisations for cities showing their solar energy potential, “plastic banks” offering cash for plastic waste, a solar-powered hearing aid and subscription-based leasing of children’s organic clothing.

The award committee is chaired by the former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. Winners will be announced on Dec. 6 during a U.N. conference in Paris in December which will aim to create a new global deal to curb climate change.

This article is published in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Magda Mis is a Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent, based in London.

Image: In this file photo, Francisco da Silva Vale, 61, cleans solar panels which power ice machines at Vila Nova do Amana community in the Sustainable Development Reserve, in Amazonas state, Brazil. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

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