10 Inventive Ways to Use Solar Power

Image by Markus Ram / Creative Commons

Solar power is one of the best alternative energy options available today. Unlike wind or tidal energy where you are, in part, dependent on nature cooperating with your energy-collection efforts, there is very little that can hinder your ability to harness the power of the sun day-in and day-out. So let’s take a look at some of the inventive ways to use solar power:

1 – This first one is a truly life-saving invention. The “solar suitcase” from WeCare is a portable solar system that can not only be used to provide power during emergencies such as after an earthquake, hurricane, tornado or other natural disasters, but was designed to be used in developing world hospitals and other facilities.

2 – This next one is a solar car with an inventive feature of having solar panels set up to track the sun. Tracking the sun allows the car’s solar panels to move in order to capture the most directly sunlight and thus the most power. Take a look:

3 – I like this one because it was thought up out of necessity and using only the tools and equipment this young man was able to get his hands on. In Kenya, an 11-year old boy built a solar-powered “security system” in order to protect his family’s livestock from lions and thus save their livelihood. Take a look at what a little creativity and necessity can do.

4 – This is one of my personal favorites because I love homes with trees and nature all around them. Although I love nature’s trees best, this tree is pretty cool. It is a tree that people can “plant” or install right around their homes in order to tap into the energy of the sun, as well as the power of the wind. While the artificial trees from Solar Botanic don’t exactly have the ability to remove carbon emissions and pollution like a natural tree, these trees can directly provide power to your car and your home.

Image from Solar Botanic

5 – This invention is one that could make solar power easily accessible to almost anyone….paint-on solar cells. Instead of having to pay to have solar panels installed on your roof, you could have your entire house painted with solar paint. Now we’re talking!

Image by mazaletel / Creative Commons

Here’s another inventor who believes in broadly spreading the sun’s wealth through the use of solar paint:

6 – This next one is a great pairing of natural fabrics along with solar power to bring about solar-powered clothes. Unlike the solar-powered bikini, underwear, and other wearable solar items we’ve seen before, this particular line of solar-powered clothing is made with natural materials and is perfect for joggers, hikers, campers and outdoorsy types. While it is currently on the expensive side, this is something I’d love to see more of in the future.

Image from Silvrling

7 – This one is an eco-friendly, solar-powered clothes dryer. It was designed by UC Riverside students as part of an EPA design contest. Their design won the contest and as a result they received a $15,000 grant from the EPA to finalize and perfect the design. Although they didn’t win the final prize of $90,000, which went to a Princeton invention titled “Power in a Box“, I personally think this clothes dryer is still a good idea.

8 – For all you eco-friendly, winter sports enthusiasts, this one is for you. It is a solar-powered ski lift, reportedly one of the first in the world. Best of all is that the lift generates 3x more power than is required to operate it, so the rest of the energy is used to help power the local town. Steamboat Springs is also reportedly working its way off the grid as they state they are using alternative energy to power three of their existing ski lifts. However, they also state: “The resort gets its green energy from renewable energy certificates from 3 Phases Energy Services to ensure the delivery of clean, natural wind power to the ‘grid’, thereby displacing an equivalent amount of energy that otherwise would have been created by non-renewable sources.” So, based on that, I think I’m going to stick with Tenna being the first to have a ski lift directly powered by the sun.

9 – There is now a solar-powered video panel that has many uses including being used as a touching memorial video at the final resting place of a loved one, providing information for hikers along nature trails, paths, parks, gardens, designated scenic spots and more.

10 – This last one adds a little oomph to an already somewhat greener form of transportation; the train. Now don’t get your hopes up too much, these panels aren’t directly on the train, although we could see that in the not-to-distant future. In fact these 16,000 solar panels have been placed on a 2.1 mile tunnel that the trains travel through. Despite the fact that sunny days are often few and far between, these solar panels generate enough electricity to power 4,000 trains = 1 full day of rail travel throughout Belgium. Can you imagine how much power could be generated if each train had solar panels on it?

Let’s look a little into the future…imagine how cool it would be to have these autonomous travel pods driving along a solar paneled roadway en route to the ultimate green urban hotel. The ability to tap into the power of the sun is unlimited…think of the possibilities.

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