Lighting up the World: Solar Empowerment for South African Youth

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

But helping to make solar power available to people without access to electricity is really and truly awesome.


I’m proud to support my friend Pam Ulicny’s great Indiegogo solar power project:

We are seeking to raise $10,000 to start a pilot program that will train and employ local youth to install, distribute and maintain home solar energy/lighting systems for people in rural villages and towns in South Africa without access to consistent, reliable, and renewable power. The money raised, after expenses, will pay for 50 solar lighting systems to begin this project.

We know, if we teach people how to build and use solar solutions for their energy needs their lives and their communities will be changed for years to come.

Science teacher Pam Ulicny holding a solar lamp. "It's better to help people make a solar lamp than to curse the darkness."

Science teacher Pam Ulicny holding a solar lamp she designed.

We know, replacing kerosene as a primary fuel source with solar energy solutions will bring improvement to the health and well-being of women, children and communities.

We are committed to creating long term solutions to the energy and economic needs of energy impoverished communities in South Africa and other developing countries.

SUNDANCE SOLAR has partnered with Educo Africa and ASPIRE Youth, two local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Working together, we will provide the equipment, business & technical training and mentoring necessary to educate people in urban and rural areas on the health and economic benefits of the use of solar energy.

We know supplying homes with solar energy systems and training and mentoring the youth contributes to improving the health and standard of living of families and their communities.We know every act of kindness and empowerment inspires another.

We know, others need your help and support.

We know working together we can make a difference.

For more on this great program, and to contribute to it, go here.


“The Energiewende is Germany’s ‘Man to the Moon’ project”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Speaking at the first international conference on Germany’s transition to renewable energy (in German: Energiewende) last week, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the shift away from fossil fuels and nuclear power as his country’s “man to the moon project.”

The Berlin “Energy Transition Dialogue 2015” drew nearly 1,000 representatives from 60 countries, according to event sponsors. The Energiewende was formalized into German law in 2000 with the passage of the Renewable Energy Act. That law mandates a phase-out of nuclear power by 2022, steep reductions in CO2 emissions, and aims to generate 80 percent of the country’s power supply by renewable sources by 2050. (Germany today gets 27 percent of its electrical generation from renewables, including wind, biomass, and solar power.)

The conference was timed to precede — and shape — the United Nations Global Climate Conference COP21, scheduled for this December in Paris.

In his opening remarks, German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel, addressed his country’s decision to phase out nuclear power despite the low GHG emissions from that energy source — a choice that is controversial elsewhere, but is widely supported across the political spectrum in Germany:

The ecological sense of the use of nuclear energy is not the point, because we now know that this is the most inefficient and most expensive  energy supply. That’s how the debate has switched from an environmental to an economic discussion about the future of our country.

Note: Clean Break, my e-book about the Energiewende, produced for InsideClimate News in 2012, can be found here. My more recent reporting from Germany on developments in the energy transition will appear in Discover magazine this summer.

The Earth in HD: Live from Space

The view of Earth from the International Space Station is spectacular. For some time, I’ve considered embedding a live feed from a video camera attached to the ISS. When the camera was recently upgraded to HD, the sharper images convinced me that now was the time. A 24-7 view of our home planet from 268 miles up (431 km) is to some space geeks what kitty videos are to “normal” people. Addictive and mesmerizing.

Traveling at 17,000 miles an hour, the ISS encounters a sunset or sunrise every 45 minutes. Of course, they’re beautiful, but even more stunning IMHO are the views of the planet gliding by in full light far below. And at night, if you tune in at the right time, you can see cities around the world marked by their glowing lights.

Enjoy the live feed below. If you want to learn more about the ISS, check out this NASA website devoted to the orbiting science laboratory.

Mapping data is set for Phoenix, Arizona. You can change the settings to your own location and see out more great features offered by the satellite tracking site, n2yo, here. (Donations are encouraged.)

Second, non-HD, live stream from the International Space Station (below).