• 3 min read

3 reasons solar is the answer with Alex Honnold

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At our recent Empower conference, Alex Honnold — yes that Alex Honnold — spoke about the role solar can play in our energy transition. While you may know him from Free Solo, his NatGeo series Arctic Ascent, or any of his many other projects, his Honnold Foundation is a fierce advocate, and supporter, of solar.

The Honnold Foundation “believes in solar as a proven, environmentally sound solution to global energy poverty, and we award grants to community organizations whose projects are innovative, equity-focused, and have the potential to shift the narrative on what’s possible for energy access worldwide.”

Honnold took some time off from climbing El Capitan (again) to talk with Aurora CEO and Co-Founder Chris Hopper about a variety of topics, from climbing, to his inspiration, to, yes, solar’s potential and where it fits in to “building a brighter, more equitable world for all of us.” 

You can watch the full discussion here. (While we loved his solar insights, our favorite part might be how casually he mentioned that he climbed El Capitan the day before, and was climbing it again the day after. NBD.)

Click above to watch Alex Honnold’s full keynote (and every other Empower session).

To get you warmed up, here are three reasons why he thinks solar is the answer to so many of our energy needs. (Answers are lightly edited for content and clarity.)

Solar eliminates the middleman (plants)

“So much solar energy hits the Earth. Every day it seems like, why would we go through plants? Like why use plants as a middleman when you can go straight from the sun, you know? Why use ancient, prehistoric plants that have been fossilized and then burn them at great detriment to the environment and human health when you could just use the sunlight directly?”

Solar can serve (almost) everyone

“There’s so many parts of the world where there are just never going to be power plants and there are never going to be power lines. I’ve been on several climate expeditions in sub-Saharan Africa, for example. And, you go to remote rural communities — no one is ever building power lines here. And yet these communities can still be served by solar.

“There are almost a billion people on Earth without access to power. And as the world decarbonizes and transitions to cleaner energy, there’s still hundreds of millions of people without access to power. That’s partially why I’ve been supporting solar projects philanthropically, because I feel like even as the world makes the necessary changes, there are still people left behind.”

Solar can go anywhere

“You can put solar basically anywhere, ideally while minimizing the impact on the natural world, because there’s just so little nature — like real nature — left. When you think of things like mountaintop removal [for coal mining] and things like that… that’s so crazy when you can just put solar on the tops of all these buildings that already exist and already have a huge footprint. Solar is such a natural, obvious solution…

“I’m all for protecting natural spaces as much as possible, and there’s so much undeployed rooftop space in the US. Anytime you fly, you see giant box stores everywhere and you’re like, ‘Why aren’t each one of those big buildings a freaking power plant?’ They can be, and probably will be in 10 or 15 years.”

Why aren’t each one of those big buildings a freaking power plant?

Alex Honnold

These are just three of about 1,000 takeaways from the discussion. It’s well worth watching, or listening to on your way to your next customer (or adventure). 

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