Solar power is mindblowingly cheaper than just a few years ago. That's fantastic news for the Earth.

The sun.

Photo by NASA/Flickr.

Bringer of day. Giver of life. Causer of that squinty face you're making in your Christmas card photo.

Just TAKE THE PICTURE! Photo via iStock.


And now, perhaps, also the unlikely savior of our climate and planet.

Thanks largely to a major decline in the cost of equipment, solar power has become the cheapest new energy source on the market.

"Unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects," Bloomberg's Tom Randall reports, summarizing a series of new data released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which surveyed 58 emerging economies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America.

The fact that this is taking place in the developing world is a big deal, as it could potentially allow some countries to skip dirty, costly fossil fuels altogether — or at least mostly.

A gigantic solar farm in Morocco. Photo by Fadel Senna/Getty Images.

Back in the '90s, much of Africa couldn't reliably talk to each other on the phone. Even in 2015, only 2% of African households had landline connections. But the advent of mobile phones allowed many countries to rapidly build communication infrastructure without having to install costly, resource-and-labor-intensive telephone lines. Today, nearly 90% of Nigerian and South African adults own mobile phones — about the same as the United States.

Similarly, falling costs could allow many of these countries to install cheap solar farms without having to first build big expensive coal and natural gas plants, giving them an edge over countries like the United States, which have to weigh the cost of building new, clean energy plants with the cost of tearing down old ones and deal with heavy resistance from the industries that operate them.

Of course, there are still some roadblocks to a full-on, balls-to-the-wall solar building bonanza.

Despite falling costs, installing solar panels across dozens of countries on multiple continents is time consuming.

Also, in areas that are less reliably sunny, fossil fuel sources can still be cheaper and more effective.

Nonetheless, it's an encouraging sign — and not just for those hoping to slow or reverse climate change.

"For populations still relying on expensive kerosene generators," Randall wrote, "or who have no electricity at all, and for those living in the dangerous smog of thickly populated cities, the shift to renewables and increasingly to solar can’t come soon enough."

When that day comes, we Earthlings could owe the sun big time.

Photo by NASA.

At least until it swallows us all whole in a few billion years.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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