Use of solar energy is growing rapidly all over the world. Some experts say an American home or business goes solar every four minutes. The solar boom may be about 50 years too late, but there’s never a bad time to stop consuming fossil fuels.
What’s really interesting is how creative engineers and designers have become about integrating solar harvesting technology into our homes, appliances and other things we use every day. If you think solar panels only live on rooftops, prepare to be amazed at these 5 places where you’d never expect to find a solar panel!
1. Road and Parking Lot Pavement
What if instead of just sitting there, creating storm water runoff issues, pavement could produce clean energy? That’s the dream of Scott and Julie Brusaw, creators of the Solar Roadways project. The pair recently paved a parking lot with solar panels that are strong enough to withstand vehicular traffic. Each of the hexogonal panels “features PV cells and circuit boards, 128 programmable LEDs, a heating element to help deal with ice and snow, and are topped with ‘super-strength’ textured glass (which has exceeded expectations in load, traction and impact resistance testing),” reports Gizmag.
2. Airports (and Planes!)
Airports are often surrounded by acres of open space. Rather than leave it idle, many airports have begun to install solar farms that help to produce energy for buildings and lights. Indianapolis International Airport recently became home to the largest airport solar installation in North America: 12.5 MW solar array that uses 41,000 solar photovoltaic panels to generate 280 W at peak production. And it’s not just airports, the Solar Impulse 2–itself covered in 17,248 monocrystalline silicon solar cells–aims to become the first plane to fly around the world without a drop of fossil fuel.
In a world saturated in mobile technology, having a way to generate free power on the go is priceless. Voltaic Systems has been a leader in portable solar panels for years, but their Solar Converter Backpack has always been a favorite of mine. With 3.4 Watts of power, it will quickly charge all your handheld electronics. Just an hour in direct sunlight will deliver 75 minutes of talk time on your smartphone.
We’re definitely not advocating that you consume tobacco products, but when it comes to unexpected places to find a solar panel–this fits the bill. Never fight the wind again! And, as Gizmodo points out, “it’s also the perfect camping accessory if you’ve never had much luck rubbing two sticks together to start a fire.”
5. Car Roof
A solar-powered car used to be the stuff of bizarre concept vehicles, but not so any more. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CED), Ford unveiled a solar plug-in hybrid crossover, based on its C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. The modern vehicle has 16 square feet (1.5 square meters) of photovoltaic panels built into the roof.
What other unusual places have you seen solar integration? Share them in a comment!