Q. What is a solar field? How does it work?
A: Solar fields are similar to any other agricultural field, except that instead of growing corn or wheat, they harvest energy from the sun. Typically, panels are arranged on a flat piece of land in rows facing south to best soak up the sun’s rays and harness its energy. This energy is then fed into an existing electricity grid. The size of a solar field determines the amount of energy created. Mid-size solar fields comprise 1 to 12 megawatts of electrical power. Large fields can range up to hundreds of megawatts, enough to power whole cities.
Q. Isn’t solar more expensive than other forms of energy?
A. No. When you assess the full costs and benefits of solar vs. fossil fuels the answer is as simple as that. Solar fields will pay for themselves over the course of their 20-40 year lives as active power plants. After the initial construction of a PV solar field, there are no fuel costs. Solar technology is rapidly improving and falling in price; panel prices fell by 40% in 2011 alone. It is expected that between 2014-16 solar will reach grid parity, the point at which solar will cost the same or less than other forms of energy. In some of Gigawatt Global’s markets that are dependent on expensive, polluting diesel for electricity, grid parity is already here; electricity from solar is around half the price of diesel. In addition, solar fields create more jobs than fossil fuel plants, and promote clean air and energy security, benefits which, though hard to quantify are tangible and real.
Q. How does Gigawatt Global decide which countries to work in?
A. We look for countries that are growing fast and are hungry for energy. Many of our markets rely on burning expensive diesel fuel for their electricity. We prefer to work in countries with stable economies and transparent political systems and it is critical that we have a strong, well-connected local team working on the ground. And lots of sunshine helps too!
Q. Why are you working in developing countries?
A. Because they have a huge need for energy. 1.6 billion people in the world have no access to electricity and 600 million of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa. McKinsey and Co. identified developing countries as the fastest growing solar market sector over the next decade. The opportunities are immense, both for business and for making a positive difference in people’s lives. As founding partners of the US Government’s Power Africa and Beyond the Grid initiatives we can leverage the US Government's ability to open doors to new markets in Africa.
Q. Aren't these risky places to do work?
A. Yes, there are risks, and a major part of our business is knowing how to mitigate them successfully. We do this by, (among other things) carefully selecting where we develop projects, making sure that we have a great local team in each place, taking out political risk insurance on our projects and working with world-class technology partners.
Q: So is Gigawatt Global just about making money?
We like to describe ourselves as a "for-profit company with a non-profit soul." We are driven by our mission of bringing clean renewable energy to 50 million people worldwide by 2020. By succeeding in this goal we are building a very profitable company, but we will also help lift millions of people in the world poorest countries out of poverty and reduce carbon emissions around the globe.
Q. Can solar power help slow climate change?
A: Energy production from fossil fuels is the leading contributor to climate change. Solar energy production reduces our reliance on conventional energy production, which not only pollutes our air and causes respiratory illness and can be disastrous for public health. A solar field that produces 5 MW of electricity reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 125,000 metric tons over 20 years – the equivalent of planting 180,000 trees!
Q. Is Gigawatt Global working with other renewable resources such as wind energy?
A. Currently GWG is concentrating on solar. In the future the company plans to develop hybrid solutions combining solar with other renewable energy sources.
Q. What is Gigawatt Global's relationship to Arava Power Company?
A. There is no formal, legal relationship between Arava Power and Gigawatt Global, but there are many connections. The two companies share the same founders, Yosef Abramowitz, David Rosenblatt and Ed Hofland and many of the same investors; Several of the key senior management personnel who were instrumental in Arava Power’s success are now working to export Arava Power’s pioneering model throughout the world with Gigawatt Global. In addition, Gigawatt Global outsources its engineering needs to Arava Power.
Q. How can I get involved in Gigawatt Global?
A. For investment opportunities, please contact Weldon Turner: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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