During my trips to developing nations to install solar panels at no charge to schools and other groups, I quickly learned how passionate children are about converting the sun’s rays into electricity. Their eyes light up and faces beam to see fans spin, lights go on, and laptops purr. No longer are they dependent on unreliable electric grids, assuming grids even run to their villages, which they often don’t in remote sections of such nations.
I also learned early on to allow children to help me perform tasks safely as I install these systems. It amazes me how talented many are with tools when given the chance to work with them. In Bangladesh, for example, a six-year-old boy took a hammer to-hand and pounded a crimping device I’d brought with me to fasten ring terminals to large-bore cables needed to connect batteries in parallel. In Zambia, children by the dozens lined up to have an opportunity to turn screwdrivers, work with pliers, or fasten bolts.
By introducing these children to renewable energy at an early age, I’m convinced we can create generations of believers in clean energy. We simply have to show them the power of the sun. In the meantime, their zeal for renewable energy inspires me, so much so I include children prominently in some of my novels. In The Leopard’s Lines, for example, four youngsters in a remote village in the heart of Africa become not only the protagonist’s best friends, but his teachers. That’s fitting as children are often sources of profound wisdom.