Solar Power Without The Panels?

Despite a significant boom in the demand for solar power and the sophistication of photo-voltaic technology, many people still reluctant to outfit their homes with the hardware that’s needed to take advantage of this free and clean source of energy.

What’s keeping the average home or business owner from taking advantage of the lower utility bills that solar power has to offer? Well, among other things, many are turned off by the idea of plunking large, bulky, black panels on top of their home’s roof.

Thanks to a new technology being developed by scientists at Georgia Tech University, the equipment needed to use solar power might become much more subtle in the near future.

MSNBC recently reported that instead of using traditional solar panels, the Georgia Tech scientists are working to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity using fiber optics cables coated with zinc oxide, the same white compound lifeguards slather on their noses.

The fiber optic cables, each one two to three times the width of a human hair, could be installed on the roof of a house, car or any other structure with almost total invisibility.

One of the biggest hindrances to widespread use of solar power is that, while highly efficient, conventional solar cells are easily damaged, require intense heat to operate at optimum levels, and are very expensive to produce; a cost that is passed on to home and business owners who seek to use them.

Fiber optic photovoltaics, on the other hand, are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce. A solution of zinc oxide is heated to about 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit), about the same temperature as a cup of coffee. The cables are then dipped into the zinc oxide and allowed to dry.

Embed the fiber optics in the walls of a house, or the roof of a car, expose one end of the fiber to light and attach some wiring, and the electricity will start to flow.

Raymond Saluccio, CEO of New Jersey based EarthSure, recently announced his company’s plans to route light, be it from the sun or incandescent light bulbs, using fiber optic cables connected to underground solar panels.

Known as SubSolar, the plan could generate solar power 24 hours a day, seven days a week in hospitals or office buildings where the lights are always on (MSNBC).

Image by respres, used under Flickr Creative Commons License.


Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Sounds like a good plan.

Lone W.
Lone W3 years ago

Any new technology like this is welcome! Where I live, all the street lamps are solar powered and the emergency stations have both solar and wind power. There are also a lot of other things that are powered by either solar or wind around here.

Lis T.
Elisabeth T3 years ago

Sounds good, thanks for the article

Neil A.
Neil A3 years ago

Sounds good I have 12 solar panels & battery bank also solar hotwater system but do like this concept for the future!

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

The direction worth investigating

Ben Oscarsito
Ben O3 years ago

In any case solar power will last for 5 billion years, so, what are we waiting for...?

Ben Oscarsito
Ben O3 years ago

Worth a try, is it not...?

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez3 years ago

I called a couple years ago to find out how much it would be to solar panel my house. Starting cost for the water heater, the lights, and stove--everything except the air conditioner (I live in the tropics, so it is kind of a necessity)--would cost $15,000. Sorry, I have a kid heading off to college, and I don't have an extra $10-15,000 laying around. When it becomes really affordable, then more people will be willing to buy into the program.

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

Sorry, Kate R, but I can't give you more stars. How about two thumbs up? I agree that the initial cost of installing solar panels has deterred a lot of people (us included). And here in Florida, with hurricane-force winds blowing tree branches and other debris around, it's easy for the panels to be damaged, requiring costly repairs.
Fiber optics may indeed be the way to go.

Kate R.
Past Member 3 years ago

Sounds like a great idea, I especially like the fact that it can convert light from any source... kinda like recycling electricity!

However, I have to agree that it's the high cost of initial outlay that stops the average person fitting solar panels. What the government calls "affordable" & what actually is affordable by most people is quite different. The fact that the system pays for itself is irrelevant when few folks can afford the up-front purchase & installation costs.