What I Learned in Space about the Climate Emergency



Whenever you have a look at Earth from area, you understand simply how susceptible life is on this planet. The ambiance is extremely skinny and fragile wanting. Virtually like a contact lens on somebody’s eye. Throughout my first mission, in 1999, to repair the Hubble Area Telescope, I bear in mind passing over South America and being awed by the sheer dimension of the Amazon rainforest. On my final mission in 2016, solely 17 years later, burning and clear-cutting have been clearly evident. After seeing the Earth dramatically change from this distinctive perspective, I firmly imagine that fixing local weather change is the moonshot of the 21st century. Most of the instruments and assets that I used on my missions, such photo voltaic panels and rechargeable storage batteries, are additionally the reply to our issues right here on Earth.

On the Worldwide Area Station, photo voltaic vitality powered nearly every little thing: navigation, life assist, science experiments. The station makes use of eight large photo voltaic rays that acquire vitality from the solar and shops it in batteries to function all of its techniques. The batteries are crucial in order that while you’re on the darkish aspect of the Earth, you continue to have vitality. And for the final 20 years, it’s labored nice.

After these experiences, I made a decision to place photo voltaic panels on my residence in Colorado this yr. I wished vitality from the solar powering my home as a substitute of another supply. The solar has been probably the most dependable and vital energy supply for the final 4 and a half billion years and can proceed to be so for the remainder of human existence. I’m completely satisfied to reap the benefits of it right here on Earth. 

Rechargeable photo voltaic battery techniques are wanted now greater than ever earlier than. Already in 2020, one in three People have skilled a blackout or count on to within the close to future, underscoring the significance of rechargeable photo voltaic batteries and getting ready for potential outages whereas social distancing and dealing from residence. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was probably the most lively on report, and America’s West Coast skilled traditionally dangerous wildfires this summer season and fall, resulting in many blackouts that have been notably difficult as many householders have been working from residence due to the COVID pandemic.


Unsurprisingly, the pandemic is driving elevated demand for residence vitality techniques. Residential photo voltaic vitality supplier Sunrun lately launched a research that confirmed owners are contemplating photo voltaic vitality techniques and rechargeable batteries due to elevated residence vitality consumption throughout the pandemic. In keeping with the research, 57 p.c of householders say the pandemic has made them wish to make residence enhancements, together with almost 40 p.c who’ve a rising curiosity in backup energy sources. Photo voltaic can each assist us mitigate local weather change and assist us adapt to local weather change by making our houses extra resilient to excessive climate.

Past powering our personal houses via blackouts, photo voltaic and batteries may help us energy our neighbors’ houses and our communities. New collaborations between utilities and the personal sector to launch “digital energy vegetation,” or VPPs, that are networks of residence battery and photo voltaic techniques linked collectively and to the grid, are already taking form. When demand surges and the grid is strained, VPPs can mitigate blackouts and eradicate the necessity to fireplace up soiled, faraway fossil gas–burning vegetation.

Because the cleantech business achieves scale, each newly put in photo voltaic vitality system drives the value down for patrons. Photo voltaic is rapidly changing into extra reasonably priced than ever earlier than. It’s now simply as reasonably priced to put in a photo voltaic vitality system as it’s to pay a neighborhood utility supplier for energy in lots of components of the nation.

You don’t see political borders from area—solely humanity as a complete. We’re going through one of many best challenges within the historical past of humankind, however we’re a really succesful and resilient species. We will meet this problem by leveraging solar energy and new advances in battery storage. That is our century’s moonshot, and we have to rise to the problem.


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