You probably know all there is to know about domestic solar panels, and kudos to you if you’ve already installed these clever photovoltaic cells on your roof, as you’re totally doing your bit to reduce CO2 and conserve energy (not to mention the money you’re saving on energy bills). There are plenty of other ways solar power is being used in the world though, do you know about these?
Public Charging Stations
Solarbox are buying up disused red phone boxes, painting them green and hoping to install them all over the UK, allowing users to recharge their phones and gadgets for free (although you will have to watch adverts while you wait). It’s estimated that each Solarbox, when fully charged, will have enough energy for 100 phones, giving 20% battery power in around ten minutes.
Did you know that some satellites utilise solar cells for their power? These are far more effective than panels down here, as they don’t have to contend with our atmosphere. NASA is taking ‘direct collection’ one step further, combining existing photovoltaic and satellite technology. The concentrated beam could, in theory, be powerful enough to be used as a weapon, but according to NASA, they will use satellite technology to ensure safe levels are maintained.
The people behind Solar Roadways came up with the idea of encasing solar cells inside a near-indestructible ‘cobble’ and paving roads with them. About 15% of the rays hitting the road would be converted to electricity. They then added LEDs inside the clear cobbles, to give electronic road markings, and to offer safer night driving. Lastly came heating elements, so that roads would remain snow and ice free. And they get no hotter than asphalt in summer.
Just to put solar power into perspective, the dome of Verona’s Bentegodi Stadium is covered in 13,300 photovoltaic cells, giving an impressive total capacity of 1MW, as well as cutting their CO2 emissions by a whopping 550 tons a year.
LuminAID is an inflatable, solar-powered light, designed for use primarily in emergency situations, such as the Haiti earthquake. It packs flat, making it convenient to ship, plus it’s fully waterproof, so can be used in wet conditions or at sea. It uses a battery similar to a cell phone and when fully charged, can give up to 16 hours of LED light.
Eliodomestico solar stills are transforming people’s lives in third world countries, for those who don’t have access to fresh, clean drinking water. This clever household device will turn seawater into about five litres of clean, drinkable water per day, at absolutely no cost.
These are just some of the positive uses out there, for the humble solar cell, and it’s certain there will be many more to come.