Letters & Opinion

My views on climate change and renewable energy

By Ralph (Bizzy) Williams

From school days I have had challenges with my memory, so I have had to rely on my ability to derive formulas from my understanding of the basic principles that govern the laws of physics. This ability to reason things out from basic principles has enabled me to get through life without being a “brainbox” like my school mate Sir Henry Fraser and others. My observations have led me to believe that the universe and planet earth did not just happen but instead it was all carefully designed by a power far beyond anything that we humans can ever comprehend.

Planet earth was designed with all the ingredients in proportions to very close tolerances to sustain life of tens or thousands of living species plants corals, etc and miraculously every species was designed with built in ability to reproduce itself with slightly different characteristics to make things more interesting. A totally mind-boggling bit of creative work way beyond anything that mankind can even dream of achieving. Now here we are seemingly unable to see the obvious even, having gained a smattering of knowledge about the designers’ laws that govern how everything works. I say shame on us. Using the intelligence our designer built into us we have been smart enough to design and build instruments to measure the amount of energy that the sun delivers to the earth every day. We have measured so we know that in one day the sun delivers more energy than all energy consuming activity on earth uses in a full year.

We have been smart enough to measure the temperature of the earth over hundreds of years using ice core samples. These measurements show clearly that the temperature rise has increased dramatically since we started to burn CO2 emitting fossil fuel to power our industries. We have measured the increase in CO2 and methane in the atmosphere and observed that the rise in the temperature of the earth is directly linked to the concentration of these gasses in the atmosphere. We have observed and recorded the change in weather patterns and the devastation that temperature rise is causing to almost every living thing on earth including humans and in the oceans.

We have used the intelligence built into us by our designer to create man made equipment to harness the energy of the sun and wind. We now know how to convert these sources of energy into nonpolluting electricity that can be used to power everything on earth. We know how to store the electricity for use at night and when the wind isn’t blowing, and our methods of storage are improving rapidly. Yet driven by greed for profit in the fossil fuel industry and the opposition of supposedly intelligent people including some prominent politicians, we continue to delay what must be done to prevent the eventual annihilation of the human species on planet earth within one century if we fail to take drastic steps now. This is my view.

Everyday planet earth receives between 8,000 and 10,000 times as much energy from the sun as is required to power the entire planet for a whole year. About 29% of the surface of the earth is covered by land. The rest is water. 29% of 8,000 = 2,320 times the energy required to power the earth lands on land. Using present technology, a minimum of 18% of the suns energy that falls on photo voltaic panels can be converted to electricity. So, 18% of 2,320 = 418 times the energy required to power the earth can be produced by covering 1/418 = 0.2% of the land with PV panels. Planet earth now has 7.7 billion humans that, according to Google, consume an average of 58 KWh per day per person.

So, to power the entire earth, we will need to generate 58 X 7,700,000,000 = 446,600,000,000 KWh per day. This will need 106,333,333 KWp of PV panels or an area of 691,862,482,649 sq metres. The land area of the earth is 196.9 million sq miles or 510,229,863,176,861 sq metres. So, all the electricity required to power everything on earth now can be produced by an off the self PV panels that cover 0.14% of the earth land area. Let us allow for setbacks, access roads and the storage of 50% of the electricity produced with a 90% recovery the area still will not exceed 0.2% of the earths land area. The deserts on earth cover 33% of the earths land area so clearly, we can generate all the electricity we need to power everything on earth by converting the suns energy to electricity without depriving anyone of a space to live. And that is not taking into consideration that 20% of all electricity now consumed on earth is produced by Hydro and 22.5% by Nuclear.

The Elephants in the room are Coal that is still being burnt to produce 55.1%, Natural gas 10.3% and Petroleum 2%. We will have transmission problems and we will need to design our homes and buildings to be energy producers, but these are not insurmountable challenges when we consider the alternative which is our beloved planet becoming uninhabitable by humans. I will use the Small Island Developing State Barbados to illustrate what I believe can be done by all SIDS to play their part to prevent the coming disaster.

Barbados is an island of 166 sq miles that currently consumes approximately 9.3 KWh per day per capita. The population is about 280,000 so it needs to generate 2,602,740 KWh per day average. This can be produced by about 619,700,000 KWp of solar that requires an area of 4,032,000,105 sq meters or 0.94% of the islands surface area. Allowing for setbacks and access roads plus loss of 10% of stored electricity for use at night we would have to allocate about 2% of the land area for ground mounted solar less the percentage of the land area that can be placed on rooftops. I estimate at least 0.6% can be on roofs leaving only 1.4% needed to power the entire island.

Now Barbados is an extremely stable democracy that one could say is a darling of the economically powerful countries of the world whose citizens are always welcomed and enjoy holidays in Barbados as is the case with many of the SIDS of the world. These SIDS are bearing the brunt of the sea level rise and hurricanes caused by the CO2 and methane emissions of the industrialized nations of the world and this is draining the economies of the SIDS to the extent that they struggle to get by far less have money for infrastructure development and to convert to 100% nonpolluting sources of energy that is needed for their populations to live in dignity and provide the quality services and amenities that the citizens of the polluting countries wish when holidaying in the SIDS.

For all the above reasons I believe that to be fair to us who live in the developing SIDS the polluting countries would benefit from providing financial support for all SIDS in the form of a subsidy of say US$0.05 or 5 cents for every KWh that the SIDS generate from renewable resources. The generation of electricity from RE resources is already measured daily so the developed countries would pay for results achieved not promises made. This would help save humanity on planet earth by reducing emissions while boosting exports of equipment and components produced in the industrial economies for use to enable the SIDS to convert to 100% RE. It would help the SIDS to remain welcoming areas of the planet where citizen of the industrial nations can come to enjoy well-earned vacations and even move to live and work.

I firmly believe that there are no guarantees on earth just opportunities and in my view, this is an opportunity for the industrialized countries to act swiftly to do the right thing for the survival of the SIDS and to enable some of the most beautiful areas of our planet to remain beautiful to be enjoyed by people from all over the world. It is not a lot to ask when one considers that to convert Barbados alone will require over US$2.2 billion but the world will benefit enormously if all SIDS are able to convert.

What have I done during my lifetime to qualify me to express my observations and call for action NOW. 1) I started producing electricity from PV panels in 1984 when no one else in the Caribbean even thought it could be possible or feasible. 2) Through lobbying, pushing and begging regulators to act I have lead teams that have invested more in the generation of electricity from the sun that any other private company in the region. 3) Williams Industries that I have led for 49.5 years has investments in 31 businesses across the Caribbean and our companies produce more electricity from the sun than we use. We are Carbon negative. 4) 30 years ago, I joined with another likeminded investor to erect and operate the first commercial wind turbine in Barbados for five years to prove the viability of generating power from the wind. I have not been able to get permission to erect modern wind turbines since then. 5) I have witnessed firsthand the destruction and devastation that hurricanes of ever-increasing strength have done to the SIDS of the world so I have devoted the last 15 years of my life to assemble teams of very competent engineers, who I know will be able to play a very significant role in converting Barbados, to 100% renewable energy. If only the controlling authorities would give permissions and let us get on with the job. 6) I believe if the industrial polluting powers pay the governments of the SIDS to change to RE as I have suggested, this will be a huge incentive for governments to push their regulators to act. 7) I am a passionate believer that the inhabitants of the SIDS should own a majority of the equity in the plant and equipment required to generate the electricity we need so everyone can have the opportunity to invest in the RE industry and keep the profit made at home.

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