Constant progress in innovations of solar technology has surprised both solar experts and newcomers alike. Improvement is not only confined to the more traditional solar technology but also involves new handheld devices and applications. These innovations guarantee that solar will eventually replace fossil fuels as the clean-energy source of choice.
The Solar Kindle
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the SolarKindle made its debut as Amazon’s latest innovation in the field of mobile devices and solar technology. The SolarKindle is an innovation of Amazon’s ever-popular Kindle. The e-reader has a solar cover able to absorb enough energy from an hour of sunlight to power the tablet for three days. Moreover, the SolarKindle’s cover can provide sufficient energy to the mobile device for three months under normal sunlight. Users no longer have to worry about finding electrical ports to charge their Kindle.
One of the most innovative additions to solar technology is the Artificial Leaf created by MIT researcher David Nocera. Like its name describes, the Leaf simulates a real leaf whereby it goes through a photosynthesis-like mechanism. During this process, the Leaf absorbs solar energy and uses this to break down water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The gases produced can be stored in a fuel cell to make off-grid living possible. What’s more, the Leaf performs 10 times better than a natural leaf. Nocera develops products that could eventually provide electricity to the poor in Third-World countries through his company Sun Catalyix. His creations are expected to be of commercial use very soon.
The Lotus Position
Italian architect Giancarlo Zema, well-known for his forward-looking creations for semi-submerged architecture, has teamed up with architectural design house Luminexence to create the multi-purpose “Lotus.” The Lotus functions as both a charging kiosk for an electric vehicle and as an LED street lamp. A segmented design, a small segment of the Lotus can produce 500 watts of electricity while the greater segments are able to generate 2.8 kilowatts. Not just that, the greater segments can be used as shelters for vehicles. Zema and the architects dream that one day this will transform public spaces, especially parking spaces to environmentally sound areas.
Dow Powerhouse Shingle
One of the latest must-have in solar technology has got to be Dow’s new solar shingles. The building had embedded photovoltaic (BIPV), which allows solar to blend in with its environment. These shingles not only function as a rooftop but also as a solar installation. Besides, the shingles can be conveniently installed by regular roofing contractors. The shingles made its debut in the market in Colorado in the last quarter of 2011. It is expected to make its appearance in the other markets soon.
Belgium’s Solar Tunnel
For the first time in European history, a high-speed rail line is powered by clean energy. The Belgian railway infrastructure is powered by 16,000 solar panels along two miles of the man-made tunnel. The clean-energy powers the lighting, heating and signalling system of the route from Antwerp to Amsterdam. The collaboration between municipalities, installer Solar Power Systems and solar developer Enfinity are expected to generate above 3,000 MW of electricity annually. This is enough to power 950 homes.