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Reduce the cost of storage of heat and power from solar energy


Did you know that, long before the adoption of the 2030 Agenda which set ensuring access to affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all as one of its 17 sustainable development goals (SDG 7), the United Nations had already started exploring new sources of energy for sustainable development?

The United Nations Conference on New Sources of Energy, held from 21 to 31 August 1961 in Rome, Italy, discussed the applications of geothermal, wind and solar energy, as well as the means by which sustainable energy could be brought into wider use, particularly for the benefit of less developed countries.

According to the Conference report, geothermal energy drove electricity generating plants with a capacity of nearly 400,000 kilowatts, about three-fourths of it in Italy and the remaining capacity in New Zealand, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere. Geothermal energy also heated homes in Iceland, hatched chickens in Kenya and produced salt and chemical by-products. The conference recommended further exploration of geothermal resources to increase its use.

Wind power development ranged from small windmills for water pumping and electricity generation to large turbines for supplying power in remote communities and connection to major power networks. Many technical advances were presented at the Conference, such as using fiber glass-reinforced plastics and designing wind power installations according to aerodynamic principles.

Discussions around solar energy took a major part at the Conference. Topics ranged from new materials for solar energy generation to water heating, solar drying, solar cooking and solar refrigeration. It was concluded that further research was needed to substantially reduce the cost of storage of heat and power from solar and wind energy.

The Dag Hammarskjöld Library has now digitized the complete documentation of the Conference, including 250 technical papers, which can be accessed online in the UN Digital Library. The report of the Conference is contained in document E/3577/Rev.1.

Find out more on this topic in our related research guides on climate change and development.