By Ebele Orakpo
FOLLOWING Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola’s fears over the consequences that may face the planet if everyone embraces solar energy as they did hydrocarbon in the last century, an expert in the field of solar energy, Dr Mark Verstraten, managing director of Rimas B.V of Netherlands, had moved to allay those fears.

The governor had said while speaking at the recently-concluded Economists Conference in Lagos, that “when the Ford T model was introduced in the first few years of the last century, there was the choice whether to power it with hydrocarbon or alcohol and because of the prohibition and all that, they chose hydrocarbon but that was a decision taken over a hundred years ago for which all of us are facing very serious consequences today in terms of powering automobiles using hydrocarbon and what it is doing to our whole planet in terms of environmental degradation,” cautioning that “we should pause and ask the question what this continent would be like in another 100-150 years if all of us begin to harvest solar power.”

Reacting to this, Dr. Verstraten in an exclusive chat with Vanguard said: “The main thing that will happen is that global warming would be affected very positively. The temperate region would get a lot colder.”

This is because solar energy does not emit greenhouse gases which are the major culprits in global warming and the major sources of green house gasses are fossil fuel. Researchers have said that greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of the earth and that without them, earth’s surface would be on average about 33 °C (59 °F) colder than at present.

Dr. Vastraten’s assertion was corroborated by reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an arm of the United Nations tasked with evaluating the risk of climate change caused by human activity which said that variations in natural phenomena such as solar radiation and volcanism had a small cooling effect after 1950, adding that most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th Century was caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation.

Speaking also in response to the governor’s expressed concern, the CEO of PSI Industries Limited, Dr. Patrick Owelle, noted that solar energy is environment-friendly as there is no carbon emission, no noise pollution, no smoke etc., adding that solar energy is also sustainable as long as the sun is with us. The Rimas’ CEO stated that the reason fossil fuel was chosen as “the source of energy for cars was because other solutions could not compete against the combustion engine and the alternative at that time was steam, but fossil fuel was required to make the steam, and not very efficiently.”

Explaining further, he said the main component in a solar panel is silicium for the solar cells and for the glass panel, noting that silicium (sand, rock) is the most common raw material on the globe, while the second main material is aluminium, for the frame which is also abundant on the globe.

He said the governor need not harbour any fears over the use of solar energy as there are no known adverse effects but would be “justified to be worried about how the earth would be affected when it comes to electricity generation using  nuclear, and even hydro, wind and thermal. Hydro affects the normal flow of a river, thermal uses up heat from the earth, nuclear, well, we know about radioactive elements.


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