Saving lives: The real power of renewable energy

Renewable energy can change lives in many parts of the world - places that aren't connected to the grid. It can power homes, help farmers become more productive and prevent death.

Solar, wind and other forms of clean energy enable parts of the non-electrified world to skip the grid the same way many Africans leapfrogged over landlines straight to cell phones (which in this case are being charged by solar power). It is costly to connect remote areas to the grid, and renewable energy can be a game changer.

This item talks about a big solar project in Tibet, where terrain is rugged and population centers are distant. In this story, the author talks about using solar power to bring water to an orphanage in Kenya. Kerosene pollutes and flashlights are often inadequate, so a California doctor working in Nigeria asked her husband to develop a "solar suitcase" that can be set up in a rural clinic. PBS has a story here.

Clean energy also improves the fortunes of farmers in underdeveloped nations. University of California, Davis, master's student Blake Ringeisen designed a solar-powered fruit dryer that boosts productivity of farmers in Tanzania. Here's our blog on his invention.

And clean energy can be an alternative to charcoal, making cooking safer and healthier. A sustainable cooking fuel facility opened in Mozambique that makes ethanol-based cooking fuel from surplus cassava. That's important, according to this story,  because the overwhelming majority of urban families in Africa buy charcoal to cook their food. Charcoal is getting expensive and, according to the story, "has the health impact of smoking two packs of cigarettes per day." Here is the New York Times version of the same story.

 Officials also are studying clean energy possibilities beyond local uses. How about exporting? This blog post talks about renewed - albeit, ambitious - efforts to create a solar network in the Sahara Desert that could supply power to Europe. Some heavy-hitter German companies are involved, but a stiff price tag of $500 billion and rough climatic conditions are possible stumbling blocks.

Clean energy can make a difference in many places, but the impact is greatest in places without an electrical grid.

Video of CleanStar Mozambique by Novozymes TV