Many industries, especially in agriculture, can benefit from solar thermal technologies. This would be critical as a strategy to reduce CO₂ emissions into the atmosphere, according to Erence Manyako, research team manager at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).
When the world was entering the new century, the need to increase energy production to meet rising demand and environmental protection became important issues in many countries. Active development of renewable energy resources became an important task of national energy strategies for many nations across the world.
Globally, the development of renewable energy resources is one of the most important directions for implementing alternative energy strategies.
High carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from fossil fuel combustion activities, such as generation of energy from coal-fired power stations, sparked the call to switch to renewable energy sources and other methods of clean energy technologies.
However, other economic activities such as agriculture also result in increased CO₂ emissions into the atmosphere. Reducing and mitigating the effects of high atmospheric CO₂ concentrations are topical issues in the international community.
It is estimated that fossil fuel (oil, coal and natural gas) combustion accounts for at least 70% of global CO₂ emissions. Therefore a focus on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy resources could bring significant changes in reducing atmospheric CO₂ concentrations.
Apart from complete replacement of the fossil fuels, there are fossil fuel utilising technologies that can still potentially reduce CO₂ emissions to the atmosphere such as high efficiency low emissions (HELE) coal technologies.
This group of coal technologies includes underground coal and integrated gasification, carbon capture utilisation and storage, ultra-supercritical and supercritical power plants, and similar technologies.
In addition to atmospheric CO₂ concerns, financial constraints imposed by lenders on coal-powered energy plants are making renewable energy technologies the more favourable option for generating power.
Opportunities for agriculture
Many industries, especially agriculture, can benefit from solar thermal technologies. This would be critical as a strategy to reduce CO₂ emissions into the atmosphere.
Developing countries generate more atmospheric CO₂ emissions from agriculture than developed countries. In 2005, developing countries contributed 74% of the global agricultural CO₂ emissions.
Agro-processing is one of the agricultural activities that generates a lot of CO₂ into the atmosphere, which can get a significant share of the benefits from solar power.
Furthermore, the entire agro-food chain absorbs about one-third of global energy production, with crop production accounting for 12% and manufacturing, distribution, retail, preparation and cooking accounting for nearly 80%.
When it comes to resolving the energy crisis and reducing agricultural emissions, it is clear that the agricultural sector in developing countries must become part of the solution.
Solar energy has been used for food processing since ancient times, when food processing and preservation were important in nutritional and aesthetic applications. Today, solar energy is used in applications such as pumping of water, distillation of brackish water and cooking.
Technological advancements achieved over the past years of research in solar energy development offer more opportunities for the agricultural sector to reduce its carbon footprint, while realising huge savings.
Availability of solar resources
It is anticipated that if energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are widely adopted, global CO₂ emissions will be reduced to 75% of 1985 levels by 2050.
Wind, hydro, geothermal, solar and other renewable energy sources abound for deployment.
However, because of the desirable environmental and safety aspects, it is widely believed that solar energy should be used instead of the other alternative energy forms. This is because it can be supplied in a sustainable manner without harming the environment.
South Africa is one of the developing countries with areas suitable for solar energy development.
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