The Solar Power World March 2023 Digital Edition is sponsored by CPS North America | Chint Power Global
My solar utopia
Solar power is more to me than just the fi eld I work in. As an avid hiker, birdwatcher and outdoor enthusiast, it’s also a passion of mine to see more clean energy like solar get deployed in this country.
I’ve been thrilled and heartened recently as I notice solar power becoming more ubiquitous in my life away from my desk. Not quite in the form of huge numbers of installations going up near me — in Ohio, cheap energy prices due to prevalent natural gas mean solar is still a luxury item for the upper-middle-class and beyond. But in the arts I consume, solar is coming up time and again.
Two books I read last year — Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez and Eleutheria by Allegra Hyde — both mention solar power to underscore the themes of utopian society and idealism. In Olga, a woman in New York City with Puerto Rican roots grapples with her responsibilities to the island in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane. Gonzalez writes about how the island’s unstable electrical grid increases demand for solar backup systems, but powerful leaders work to block energy self-reliance. Pushback ensues and leads to the formation of a resistance group demanding solar for the people called “Sol Libre.”
This fictional story lines up closely with the reality in Puerto Rico, with the island seeking resilient renewable energy solutions but continually dealing with resistance from utility powers and lack of support from the mainland. Gonzalez clearly did her research on the many policy issues that led to Puerto Ricans being kept in the dark for months after Hurricane Maria.
In the other book, Eleutheria, a woman escapes society to live on an island commune that seems utopic at first. The people on the island share the work to run a self-sufficient community — including fi shing, cooking and, of course, performing O&M on the island’s solar arrays.
As with most potential utopias, something’s not quite right. But the solar panels kept the lights on despite the personality issues.
I could have glossed over these seemingly small mentions of solar technology in the two books, but they really struck me, especially reading the books one after the other. They showed me solar technology is gaining more traction, reaching more readers and hopefully more homeowners and businesses. It’s not just books, either. In the parking lot at a favorite trailhead one weekend, I walked past a car with a vanity license plate that just said “SOLAR.” With every mention in pop culture or in parking lots, more people may soon see solar power as a normal part of everyday life. That’s the future I want to live in.