India and the U.K. — in partnership with the World Bank and the International Solar Alliance — have launched a new initiative aimed at creating a solar grid across the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Its goal is to share solar generated electricity across countries while sunshine fluctuates.
Eilyan Bitar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University, researches how to sustainably integrate renewable energy sources into the grid. Bitar says interconnection of power grids across multiple countries is common and there are good prospects for a solar grid, too, but that great care must be taken to ensure the project doesn’t spark inequity.
“The idea of creating a global network that can transfer the sun’s power from regions of the world where it’s shining to other parts of the world where it’s dark is intriguing and technically feasible — but care should be taken to ensure that these global networks do not give rise to inequity in how the sun’s power and it’s environmental benefits are distributed across the developing world.
“For example, for every unit of solar energy that’s transmitted from India to east Asia, an additional unit of energy needs to be produced to satisfy the unmet demand for electricity in India. If this additional energy comes from dirty fossil fuel-based sources, then certain communities which are unable to access clean renewable power may suffer greater environmental and health costs, while others benefit at their expense.”