If you're training to become a solar energy technician, you probably already understand the power and impact of renewable energy. But the level of innovation happening in the solar industry goes far beyond residential and commercial solar panel installation. Creative minds are using the power of solar to reach new heights (literally, in one case), and make living environments better for people locally and abroad.
Check out these four solar-powered inventions that will change the world.
The Solar Impulse program is a long-range experimental solar-powered aircraft project led by Swiss engineer and businessman André Borschberg and Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard. Solar Impulse II, the second solar-powered aircraft created for the project, successfully completed a trip around the globe on July 26, 2016, landing in Abu Dhabi after more than 16 months of travel. The single-seat plane is powered entirely by powered by photovoltaic cells. While we won't be traveling in solar-powered commercial aircrafts any time soon, this invention marks a major milestone in alternative power and travel.
The Canadian nonprofit organization CoLLaboratoire, recently held a competition for designers to create an innovative solar-powered bus shelter. It's safe to say the winner of the contest went above and beyond, creating a shelter that utilizes solar panels to generate enough electricity to provide LED lighting, Wi-Fi internet service, and a digital billboard. It also incorporates an energy storage system for optimal energy efficiency. It doesn't hurt that the design is pretty sleek too.
Mobile Medical Centers
Infections contracted during surgical procedures is a big problem in developing countries. That's why researchers from Rice University created a mobile medical center out of a shipping container that uses solar power to perform sterilization procedures on medical equipment. The hope is to create a system that will help off-grid communities achieve better medical outcomes.
The idea of creating solar powered roadways—solar panels engineered specifically to cover road surfaces—has been around for a while, but now the idea is actually being put into practice. The Netherlands installed a solar bike path in 2015, while France has plans in place to install "solar pavers" to cover 1,000 kilometers of its roads. Closer to home, the company Solar Roadways has struck a deal to install panels along a section of the famous Route 66 in Missouri. (Read Ecotech Institute's interview with Solar Roadways founder Scott Brusaw).