From the moment we wake up to the very last moments before we fall asleep we are using energy, to light up our homes, power our TVs and cook our meals. Developed society has become dependent on electricity for almost everything, and there are gadgets available for the few things in between. There are places around the world where homes and schools unable to connect to mains electricity, so there has been an absence of computers in schools and therefore some children have insufficient skills that are needed to use them. A new programme in Uganda is bringing technology to school and powering them using their most effective resource.
As well as allowing us to go about our day-to-day routines more conveniently, the technology available has allowed people to broaden their knowledge and become more digitally aware than previous generations. IT lessons are taught throughout school, educating young people on how to produce spreadsheets and databases and how to word process their work, however computers and tablets can also be used in aiding teaching of other subjects such as maths, geography and science. Of course the internet has become an invaluable resource to many, and for many different purposes, yet computer programmes themselves allow students to be taught in a different way.
Recently, a new programme has been launched in Uganda to allow school students the access of a computer, laptop or tablet. With many areas such as this being in remote, unchanged environments, this is the first time that this would actually be a possibility as there is an absence of electricity in most buildings. The resolution to this dilemma is solar panels.
Solar panels are used all over the world, including the UK, in many different climates. Solar energy is a renewable resource, allowing power to be generated cleanly and without affecting the environment. They work due to the photoelectric effect, which is a physical phenomenon investigated since the 19th century. Light from the sun is emitted in the form of quanta or packets of energy called photons. These photons travel in the form of electromagnetic waves at a certain frequency, and when they meet the surface of the solar panel they excite the atoms of the top layer of the solar cell. The panels are made up of smaller solar cells, which are made up of two thin layers of a substance such as silicon. The atomic configuration in this top layer means that each atom has one electron too many. The bottom layer has the opposite configuration and is missing one electron from each atom. For the extra electrons to make that jump to the bottom level and leave all the atoms with full electron orbitals, the energy from the photons is required. When light hits the solar panels this process can take place, and the energy released by moving these electrons takes the form of an electric current.
This technology has meant that in the ideal conditions of Uganda where it is hot for the majority of the time, these solar panels will work excellently, and placing them around schools will bring many new prospects to the students. The power generated can charge and power the computers and tablets so that they can be used by teachers and students alike. Learning how to use computers is one skill that will be invaluable if the young students are looking further afield for work in the future, and many work forces depend on them.
As well as this, programmes can also be used to aid in the teaching of different subjects to widen the curriculum and possibly appeal more to different kinds of learners. As there are no plans as yet to be connected to the internet, the start up costs would be the only expense, making them more of a possibility for charities and organisations to bring to under developed areas such as these, and give the young people of today the best opportunities in the future.
How else could renewable energy help those in the developing world?