Everyone know what a solar panel looks like and what it does, however you may not be aware of some of the best ways that they are being used. Far from being a way to generate electricity and hot water for your home, solar panels are now being installed on a range of items. Innovative new ways of utilising solar energy to better day-to-day life are appearing all the time and whilst some never seem to work (although that may just be the British weather) there are some truly cutting-edge inventions.
We have put together 5 of our favourite uses of solar power that may well become a big part of your life in the future.
Best Uses of Solar Power
- Solar Chargers
The frustration of the smartphone, all that technology and information at your fingertips and then the battery runs dry. The same can be said about tablets, laptops and almost any other modern, high-tech portable electronic device.
With technology improving all the time, you are now able to buy a solar charger from a high street store for a reasonable price. Aimed at the technology aware outdoor enthusiasts, a solar charger can ensure that you have access to all the latest apps to assist with any adventure, regardless of where it takes you.
- Solar Bins
Yes, you did read that correctly – even bins are starting to become part of the solar revolution. Since 2003 solar powered bins have been installed on streets of cities across the world, but I hear you asking why do we need powered bins?
These solar powered bins compact any rubbish put into it and are completely closed units. The benefits of this are a bigger capacity, allowing more rubbish to be put in the bin before it needs emptying – with the ability to take 5 times the amount of rubbish when compared to a standard bin. The bins also send a message to let the waste management company know it is full, cutting down on emissions caused by wasted trips to empty bin.
Aside from making the streets a cleaner place and waste management more efficient, there is the capability for Wi-Fi networks to be installed in them creating citywide public hotspots. Now that is a high-tech bin!
- Solar Cars
All the talk about cars of the future is based around alternative fuels and electric cars being charged via the mains. All of the above means that travelling 1 mile will still cost money, so the real question would be ‘is there a power source that that can run a car for free?’
Whilst you would potentially pay a premium for the vehicle, a solar powered car would harness a free of charge source of power in the form of the sun. A team of students from The Netherlands built a solar car called Stella and have been travelling the world to show that solar power is a viable option in the automotive industries search for alternative fuel.
In its current guise Stella looks like something out of a Sci-Fi movie and is stereotypically futuristic, however its credentials are impressive. It boasts a range of 500 miles on a single charge and can reach 80mph, it has already driven Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco and the 3000km journey across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide – both with zero emissions. Their challenge now is to get major manufacturers interested in solar energy.
- Solar Planes
Solar Impulse, the solar powered plane has been big news in 2015 with the first ever oceanic crossing by a solar plane in July this year. An epic 5 day journey from Japan to Hawaii cemented the planes place in history and they are now approximately half way on their round-the-world journey. An issue with the batteries has delayed the 2nd half of this journey until 2016 but there is no doubting this extraordinary project will make news when it finishes next year.
With a wing span greater than a Jumbo Jet and the weight of a standard car, there is no doubting Solar Impulse is an engineering feat, however with an average speed of 38 miles per hour it is closer to walking pace rather than jet pace. Can this technology be translated into a viable way of powering a commercial jet? Only time will tell.
- Solar Satellites
Whilst not strictly something that has happened, the plans for space based solar power are phenomenal. The idea is to have a large solar panel in orbit above the earth to collect energy from the sun before transmitting the electricity back to earth via a microwave beam. The concept is based around the sun’s radiation being much more potent in space, allowing greater efficiency in the collection of energy.
Obviously the logistics of launching a huge satellite into space for this purpose make the project one that may not ever happen. It would be a monumental effort to not only launch but to maintain and repair the satellite and the question has to be asked, is it worth it? While it would be cool to have a large solar panel in space supplying the world’s electricity demand, it is not something we expect to happen any time soon.