It's been one of the ironies in the energy equation - we have the energy from the sun all around us, many times more than what all of together on earth require, yet capturing and utilising that energy has been much more difficult and costly than one would like.
This has not stopped the solariphiles from looking forward to the day when the sun will power most of, or all, our energy needs.
Well, while that day might still be far off for most of the world, it already has arrived for a small village in South Korea. This village has achieved what even the most powerful countries in the world are still struggling to accomplish: total energy independence with clean technology.
Donggwang is a village on the western half of the island Jeju-do in South Korea. On the roof of each of the 40 houses in Donggwang lies a large beds of solar panels. And this includes even the small, local elementary school!
A typical house roof in the village has a two kilowatt solar installation. The photovoltaic panels thus fitted produce enough energy to power the entire area.
Now the important question is, how much of this success is translatable to the rest of the world? Are there some specific advantages that this tiny South Korean village has that has facilitated it to become 100% solar? I could not see anything unique about this village, so there is hope that this is replicable. We however have to keep in mind that this is a small village - they are talking about 40 houses in all, certainly small by any standards!
One piece of info gleaned from the articles could provide a hint: "In 2004, the government helped to install solar systems in Donggwang, paying 70% of the installation fees." Now, this could indeed be a great help as it is well known that installation costs for solar could in fact be a major stumbling block to its widespread adoption.
While we spend our time analysing whether this small success could lead to a big leap for solar energy adoption in the rest of the world, hats off to Donggwang for showing us the light at the end of the tunnel, to use a pun!