The 6 most unexpected places to find solar power

November 11, 2016

When taking a walk around your neighbourhood it is probably not unusual for you to see a few solar panels on your neighbours roof. Solar power is growing in popularity; it is affordable to install and provides sustainable, free energy that benefits the environment!

There are so many additional possibilities for solar power than just providing electricity for a home. Innovations from around the world are using solar power in unexpected ways, and the success of these projects are going a long way towards creating a world that depends on energy from the sun.

These unusual, unexpected ways to use solar power will inspire you to think differently about how you can transform how you use energy.

    1. Solar powered bicycle path

The Dutch always seem to be ahead of the game when it comes to alternative energy, and they have done it again through an interesting collaboration between the Dutch provincial government and a group of Dutch companies. Bicycling as a means to get around is exceptionally popular in the Netherlands and bicycle paths have been created to accommodate these road users.

The project recently undertaken has created a solar powered bicycle path of around 70 meters, called SolaRoad. The path is one long solar panel sandwiched between prefabricated concrete and a layer of tempered glass.

The path has been made smooth enough so that dirt doesn’t stick to it and block out the sun, while at the same time it is not too slippery, enabling cyclists to easily navigate it.

What is the point of the SolaRoad? The strip of solar panel will generate around 700 kilowatts of energy for homes in the area. It took 5 years to build the path and 3.5 million Euros, but this interesting approach to using solar energy will surely inspire similar paths to be built around the world.

    1. Solar public rubbish bins

Any surface exposed to the sun can generate solar power with the right equipment. In New York, city rubbish bins have been given a solar makeover with a number of them being equipped with a solar panel, solar battery, and a compactor. Bigbelly Solar Inc. has been producing these trash bins and distributing around 30 000 bins in Amsterdam, Chicago, New York and Berlin.

These trash cans are not being used to power homes or buildings but the energy they create is used to alert the company as to when the bin needs to be emptied, this limits the amount of energy used to continually check whether the rubbish bins need to be emptied. The energy that is created can be stored for up to 72 hours.

South Africa receives well over 2500 hours of sunlight each year, imagine the possibilities of equipping our public bins with solar harnessing capabilities.

Solar power rubbish bins, such as these, are being used all over the world.


    1. Solar powered ship

12 million Euros were spent to build the world’s first 35 meters long solar powered ship. Solar panels line the entire surface and when fully charged the ship is able to run for 72 hours in complete darkness.

The first ship of its kind was built by a German entrepreneur and did a full tour of the world in 2010, proving its immense capabilities and replication possibilities. The ship was named Turanor, which means “power of the sun”, in the language Tolkien created for his book trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

    1. Solar tents

Taking camping to the next level and minimising the need to lug around gas bottles or generators, a solar powered tent is bound to peak the interests of every camper.

These tents were originally created by the United States Army. Each tent is fit with flexible solar panels, which can harness enough sun energy to power computers, batteries, and other military gear. This minimises the need for their army to carry extra weight.

The tents are not yet available but they are being tested in Africa and the Middle East. This project has also led to further experiments to create solar harnessing tape and fabrics, essentially creating solar powered clothing.

    1. Solar parking lots

Many parking areas provide covered shading for vehicles to park under, sheltering them during the heat of the day. Now these shades are being fit with solar panels. Such installations are obviously beneficial for many reasons especially as shaded parking is popular in every city.

The energy created by these parking lots can be used to reduce the amount of grid-supplied electricity used within a building complex, thereby reducing the monthly accounts of the tenants or business owners.

    1. Solar powered airports

South Africa is really taking advantage of all those sunny daylight hours. As of 2016, South Africa is now home to 3 Green airports. These airports receive all of their energy via nearby solar plants and the most recent addition was built by the National Department of Transport, Airports South Africa.

The three solar-powered airports in South Africa are found in Upington, Kimberly, and George, and they are sure to influence the building of similar projects throughout the country and perhaps in nations around the globe.

With each new solar invention, we are one step closer to a cleaner world.
With each new solar invention, we are one step closer to a cleaner world.

Green Leaf Alternative Solutions is the Green Company paving the way forward for homes and businesses to Go Green using solar geysers, solar panels, LED lights, solar lights, and grey water systems. We’ve worked with numerous clients in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Contact us for your innovative, Green technology.

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