Researchers from Stanford University are powering their field laboratory and camp with solar power to study elephants at Mushara waterhole in Etosha National Park in Namibia.
The electrical power is used to take high-resolution pictures and record video of the elephants. The electricity generated from the solar panels is also used to drive a speaker system that delivers low-frequency sounds to the elephants – and two refrigerators stocked with food and beer.
“One of the really special aspects of solar energy is that it allows us to be in this incredibly remote area that’s closed to tourists and is off the grid […] We get to watch elephant society unfold before us in a very quiet environment – no generators, no people, no vehicles,” said lead researcher Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell.
According to the “Sustainable Energy For All”-initiative, 1.3 billion people lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business. This not only stunts the economic growth of the areas involved, but also the growth of the rest of the world.
Twice this number, or nearly 2.6 billion, relies on dirty sources of energy. Wood, coal, animal waste and other dirty forms of fuels with toxic byproducts are used by millions of families around the world.
“Replacing outdated cookstoves and open fires with modern energy services would save the lives of 800,000 children who die each year as a result of exposure to indoor smoke.”
Extending transmission cables to all those people would be incredible expensive. As the prices of solar keep decreasing, off-grid solar systems are starting to become real and economical viable alternatives.