Jan 312014

The start of the new year certainly brought us a fresh crop of solar innovations — as always in our monthly “Solar Everywhere” series, we look at where solar is popping up beyond the roof.

We’ve got a broad array of findings this month, so let’s start small and work our way up.

First: A solar street bench. As part of the city of Boston’s overarching Complete Streets initiative, which aims to make city life more efficient, people-friendly and green, the city just two benches with solar panels included, which can be used to charge mobile phones while people sit and rest.


solar soldiers


Solar soldiers: Writing in Forbes, Navigant Research points us to trends in solarizing soldiers, allowing fighting forces to carry solar panels instead of a dozen pounds of batteries. Among the products are two that bear acronym-friendly names that would only exist in the military: the Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System (REPPS) — pictured at right — a portable solar power source, and the Soldier Worn Integrated Power Equipment System (SWIPES), a wearable charging system.



solar roof tileSolar roof tiles: OK, so this doesn’t fit our mandate of looking only at solar freed from the roof, but it’s pretty neat nonetheless. Via Inhabitat, a look at Swedish company SolTech, which has created the SolTech system, using glass roof tiples to heat or even power a house. Frida Jeppsson writes, “The tiles are installed on top of a black nylon canvas, under which air slots are mounted. The black colour absorbs heat from the sun and the air starts to circulate. The hot air is then used to heat up water, which is connected to the house’s heating system via an accumulator. The beauty of the system is that it cuts energy costs throughout the year, during dark winter days as well as night time, due to its capacity to store heat in the isolating layers of air under the canvas.” They look quite pretty, as well!


solar ELF bikeSolar-powered trike: The ELF is a solar egg of a bike, a three-wheeled pedal machine created by Organic Transit, it combines the best parts of a car and a bike, and it’s powered by the sun (and your feet). With a hard shell and an electric pedal-assist engine, the ELF aims to make it impossible to resist biking — you could commute in style with minimal effort an sweat, or you could push your giant egg across town and glow with pride at your eco-lifestyle (and a fine sheen of sweat). Either way, at $5000 to start, the ELF isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of leg, but it’s a fine-looking machine.


140131-solar-everywhere-5The solarest bridge in the world: Move over, London Bridge, there’s a new landmark on the Thames: The Blackfriars Bridge features 4,400 solar panels and can generate up to half the electricity needed for the Blackfriars train station. Writes BusinessGreen: “First Capital Connect, which runs Blackfriars, expects the panels to cut the stations’ carbon emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes a year, further reducing the carbon footprint of its train routes to the south east of England…. The bridge will also act as a major advertisement for London’s efforts to become a sustainable city, with tourists and workers viewing the panels as they enter the capital.”


Solar drought solutions: Finally and biggest-ly, with California in the throes of an epic drought, The Guardian offers a look at solar-powered desalination, which could potentially solve one of California’s most pressing problems: chronic shortages of water for either state residents or the state’s ag land (which feed much of the nation). Oliver Balch writes:

WaterFX’s solution comes in the unlikely shape of a vast bank of parabolic mirrors and an advanced “multi-effect” evaporating unit. The Aqua4 system offers a renewable method of desalinating briny water, which, if its developers prove right, could put California “on a path to water independence”.

How does it work? Unlike conventional desalination, which uses a high-pressure reverse osmosis system that forces salt and other solids through a membrane, WaterFX cleans water through use of a 400-kilowatt solar “trough” – hence the mirrors. This concentrated solar still collects the sun’s energy, which heats a pipe containing natural oil, providing heat for the subsequent distillation process.”

And that wraps up our small-to-big rundown of solar innovation for the month. With the Super Bowl coming up in just two days, we will be curious to see if solar makes an appearance — for instance, when is SolarCity going to run a SuperBowl ad?

The post Solar Everywhere, Jan. 2014: Solar Soldiers, Bridges & More appeared first on Solar Power.