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Solar gains for those most in need

Solar panels are often associated with a certain technological chic in wealthier parts of the world – but it’s a technology that has great potential to benefit those most isolated and in need, too.

Solar power is gaining an increasingly prominent role in crisis-hit areas – and the technology is diversifying to match specific needs: electrification for medical and aid centres, lightweight and durable cooking facilities, and even shippable emergency response units that can power a range of communications and infrastructure. Illustrative of this role, following the recent devastating Typhoon Haiyan, a Taiwanese firm donated portable solar power kits to aid those affected in the Philippines.

Solar power is also being incorporated into temporary homes for displaced populations. Flat-packed, solar-powered shelters are being tested at refugee camps in Ethiopia, thanks to collaboration between the UN and the Ikea Foundation. Ikea stores also recently announced plans to start selling solar panels in the UK.

The hope is that this type of technology will prove successful, much more durable options than the current tent shelters that last only six months, with an increased level of comfort and greater potential for people living in camps to connect with friends and relatives back home.

Back in Britain, a solar technique commonly seen used in hot regions of the world is being tested at cold and dark times of year. Concentrated solar power, which magnifies the sun’s rays to create steam, is being trialed in Lincolnshire. Solar panels perform well in British sunlight, but there’s no harm in a helping hand– it’s all about maximising potential.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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