When you look at the earth from space, you realize how vulnerable life is on this planet. The atmosphere is incredibly thin and looks fragile. Almost like a contact lens on someone’s eye. During my first mission in 1999 to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, I remember traveling across South America and being impressed by the size of the Amazon rainforest. On my last mission in 2016, only 17 years later, burning and clear-cutting were clearly visible. After seeing the earth change dramatically from this unique perspective, I firmly believe that the solution to climate change is the moon shot of the 21st century. Many of the tools and resources that I have used for my missions, such as solar panels and rechargeable batteries, are also the answer to our problems here on earth.
On the International Space Station, solar energy powered almost everything: navigation, life support, scientific experiments. The station uses eight giant rays of the sun that collect energy from the sun and store it in batteries to power all of its systems. Batteries are essential for you to still have energy on the dark side of the earth. And for the past 20 years it has worked great.
After that experience, I decided to put solar panels in my Colorado home this year. I wanted energy from the sun, which powers my home, rather than any other source. The sun has been the most reliable and important source of energy for the past four and a half billion years and will remain so for the rest of human existence. I am happy to take advantage of this here on earth.
Rechargeable solar battery systems are needed now more than ever. Every third American has already experienced a power outage in 2020 or is expecting it in the near future. This underscores the importance of rechargeable solar batteries and prepares for possible outages while keeping himself socially distant and working from home. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active ever, and the American west coast saw historically dire forest fires this summer and fall, resulting in many power outages that were particularly challenging as many homeowners were from home due to the COVID pandemic worked.
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic is driving demand for home energy systems. The solar energy provider Sunrun recently launched a study This showed that homeowners are considering solar panels and rechargeable batteries due to the increased energy consumption during the pandemic. According to the study, 57 percent of homeowners say the pandemic caused them to do home improvement, including nearly 40 percent who have a growing interest in backup power sources. Solar can help us contain and adapt to climate change by making our homes more resilient to extreme weather.
Not only can solar and batteries provide power to our own homes through power outages, but they can also power the homes of our neighbors and our communities. New collaborations between utility companies and the private sector to introduce “virtual power plants” or VPPs, which are networks of home battery and solar systems that are interconnected and connected to the grid, are already taking shape. When demand increases and the grid is congested, VPPs can mitigate power outages and eliminate the need to operate dirty, distant fossil fuel burning plants.
As the cleantech industry grows, every newly installed solar system lowers the price for customers. Solar is quickly becoming cheaper than ever. Installing a solar system is now just as affordable as paying a local utility for electricity in many parts of the country.
You don’t see political boundaries from space – just humanity as a whole. We face one of the greatest challenges in human history, but we are a very capable and resilient species. We can meet this challenge by harnessing solar power and new advances in battery storage. This is the moon shot of our century and we must rise to the challenge.