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Home » The Thrilling Potential for Off-Grid Solar Energy: Amar Inamdar (Transcript)

The Thrilling Potential for Off-Grid Solar Energy: Amar Inamdar (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Amar Inamdar’s talk titled “The Thrilling Potential for Off-Grid Solar Energy” at TEDGlobal 2017 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Energy Crisis

There’s something really incredible happening. So there’s over a billion people who have no access to energy whatsoever across the world, 620 million of them here in Africa. It costs about 1,500 dollars to connect each household up to the grid. If you are going to wait for it, it takes about nine years, on average, and that feels like a lifetime when you’re trying to make that happen.

That’s kind of unbelievable, and it’s also unacceptable. So let’s do something about it. The lightbulb comes from this idea that you have an energy system that’s made up of the ideas of Tesla and the ideas of Thomas Edison. There was an evolution that said it’s not just about the lightbulb, it’s about the whole system, the whole energy system that goes with that lightbulb. And what happened in that gilded age was the creation of an industrial system that every country around the world has now started to emulate.

So to get to the appliances, you need to have power stations. From power stations, you need to have infrastructure, and that infrastructure takes you to the point of having electricity, and you get to the lightbulbs and the appliances that we all take for granted.

The Wireless Revolution

But the amazing thing, in a way, is that there’s a revolution happening in the villages and towns all around us here in East Africa. And the revolution is an echo of the cell phone revolution. It’s wireless, and that revolution is about solar and it’s about distributed solar. Photons are wireless, they fall on every rooftop, and they generate enough power to be sufficient for every household need.

So that’s an incredible thing. There’s also a problem with it. Up until now, the technology hasn’t been there to make it happen, and the mindset has been that we have to have the grid to provide industrial growth and let countries develop and create jobs and industrialize. So we’ve gotten ourselves to the point where actually the costs of building these grids and following that pattern of development are really unsustainable.

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