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10 Creative Solar Energy Applications

Beyond Solar Panels

When you think of the term "solar energy," what comes to mind? If you are like most people, images of rooftop solar panels to generate electricity (photovoltaic solar panels) probably define "solar" for you.

But, solar cells can be used for much more than residential solar power.

Creative solar energy applications use technology to harness power from the sun for a wide variety of uses.

Think about just about any power need in your life - from communications to entertainment, to simply powering a device you use on a regular basis.

Solio Solar Cell Phone Charger

Solio Solar Cell Phone Charger

2. Solar Backpacks

Did you know that you can get a backpack (or briefcase or handbag) covered with solar cells to help keep your electronics fully charged?

For students on the go and outdoor recreation enthusiasts, a solar backpack can keep all of your electronic devices powered up when you are away from home.

Solar backpacks are embedded with solar panels and include ports in the interior for plugging in cell phones, cameras, GPS devices, mP3 players and even laptops.

1. Solar Cell Phone Chargers

Solar cell phone chargers are a convenient way to keep your mobile phone fully charged when you are away from an outlet or your vehicle. Solar cells may be embedded on the phone itself, or may be separately purchased as a charging device. You can even get a cell phone cover with solar cells to recharge the phone.

These solar gadgets are great for people that spend a lot of time outdoors - whether for sports, camping, fishing, hiking or even just picnicking. Exposure to UV light generates power that can keep a cell phone from losing battery power over time.

As of the date of this publication, it generally takes about 2 hours of exposure to sunlight to provide enough power for 30 minutes of talk time on a cell phone. Of course, using smart phone applications will deplete power much more quickly.

How does a Solar Backpack Work?

4. Solar Hot Water

The electricity required to heat water is one of the biggest energy drains on a monthly household budget.

With a solar hot water system, you can have free hot water using power from the sun. All of your domestic or commercial hot water needs can be met with solar thermal panels.

3. Solar Attic Fans

Solar attic fans are an excellent way to help keep the space between your rooms and roof cool and dry. In addition, you can reduce summer-time cooling costs by as much as 30% using a solar powered attic fan.

The cost of these devices, which can be installed in a matter of hours, is usually less than $500, and can be defrayed with energy efficiency tax incentives and credits.

Solar Attic Fan

6. Solar Fabric

Solar fabric is a unique application of solar technology! Solar cells are woven into textile fibers with the ability of generating convenient solar electricity. One version, created by FTL Solar, can literally be pitched like a tent to provide both shelter and electricity.

Consider the endless possibilities: military, rescue operations, disaster relief, recreational options (camping, fishing, hiking, hunting), medical units, and even temporary housing.

Any place you need flexible convenient solar power, solar fabric is your answer.

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5. Portable Solar Power

Portable solar power can be an easy way to keep personal electronics charged up. But it also has some important commercial and military uses (see information to the right about solar fabric).

Solar cells may be embedded in solar backpacks, solar straps, solar fabric, roll-out solar panels and much more.

For example:

SolarRoll uses PV (photovoltaic) cells and can be rolled and carried in a small backpack. It produces up to 14W of electricity for recharging small devices like cell phones and digital cameras. SolarRoll is useful for people who spend a lot of time outside, including fishers, hunters, hikers and more. The device is also weatherproof, and UV transparent. It costs in a range of $199-$479.

Portable solar power is simple, affordable and convenient.

8. Solar Cookers

Preparing a meal with a solar cooker is often a way of life for people that live far off grid. Here in the United States, our scout troop has made and used solar cookers during camping trips and to learn about renewable energy.

When you use a solar cooker, you save energy and money. First, the power required to heat your oven is not required. Second, excess heat from using a convection oven does not overheat your home. For this reason, solar cookers are great alternatives, especially during summer months.

7. Solar Paint

Solar paint is one of the best examples of building integrated photovoltaics.

That is a fancy way of saying solar energy can be generated with building materials, including siding, roofing and windows.

As discussed in a related article:

Instead of constructing typical solar cells of silicon, polymers dissolved in a solvent creates a “paint” or coating that can be applied to any surface – from homes to offices to cars! It’s inexpensive and versatile.

Unlike bulky photovoltaic solar panels, solar paint uses thin film nano particles instead of silicon as solar conductors. When applied to the sides of structures that face the sun, the thin solar cells invisibly generate clean, green power.

How to Set up a Solar Cooker

10. Solar Powered Street Lights

Municipalities can save money with solar powered street lights, and other traffic or directional signs. In my hometown, crosswalks and signs are illuminated by energy from solar panels.

Rather than having to trench wires and draw on grid-based electricity, solar powered street lights are easy to install and inexpensive to operate.

9. Solar Lawnmower

When I first heard about the solar lawnmower three years ago, I laughed out loud! After all, what homeowner is so busy (or lazy) that they need an automated lawnmower to do the work of trimming grass?

Yes, the solar lawnmower is a popular item! Simply expose the embedded solar panels to sunlight for a few hours, and you'll generate power to run the grass cutter all afternoon.

© 2012 Stephanie Marshall


MUKUNDDESHPANDE on July 13, 2017:

Thanks.Solar fabric and solar paint can be used in various applications.what are commercial names of these products.

Theodore de Silva on December 04, 2016:

Thanks , Good contribution to the effort for popularising solar energy.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 20, 2012:

Thanks TycoonSam! It would be great to have an automated lawn mower that runs on solar energy - I agree. All the best, Steph

TycoonSam from Washington, MI on October 19, 2012:

Hello Steph,

Very cool hub. I think I like the solar lawn mower the best. Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

Voted up and useful

eguide on August 20, 2012:

attic solar is great...No need to reesesPONDpeaces!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 18, 2012:

LOL Bill - no worries! For me, life gets busy and then I realize I have not checked in with Hubpages for a week or more. :) We did solar cookers with cub scouts, too. It's a great instructional project. Cheers, Steph

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2012:

See, I'm not getting any of your notifications and now look at all of your hubs I haven't read....grrrr! This is a great hub but then I love all things having to do with alternative energy. We made solar cookers in my classrooms and they work great. Wonderful hub!

traslochimilano from USA on May 15, 2012:

I don't know more about solar energy but you hub is help to increase my knowledge regarding solar technology.

Thanks for sharing it...

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 23, 2012:

Thanks rmcleve, I'm with you in loving all these personal use solar energy applications! Best to you, Steph

rmcleve on April 23, 2012:

These are SO cool!I hadn't realized how many solar applications were out there these days. It looks like many would be very useful and practical for personal use. I like the idea of reducing my own individual usage and letting everyone else use up the power. I'm not sure why though...Maybe it's time to go off the grid.

Smart insulation on April 21, 2012:

The Backpack would come in handy.. A solar powered Cooler box would be good for camping.... maybe even a Solar Powered tent..... Don't steal my idea's

Anoop Aravind A from Nilambur, Kerala, India on April 20, 2012:

Excellent hub.In this world all are searching for energy sources.Your hub is a good guide.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 19, 2012:

Hi incomeguru, I have actually written a lot of articles about the use of solar power in countries like Nigeria. Solar seems like the way to go, rather than generators. Best, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 19, 2012:

Thanks Pam, the technology is improving and costs of solar panels are falling. Win-win for everyone!

Oyewole Folarin from Lagos on April 19, 2012:

This is a very interesting hub. In a country like Nigeria where there is epileptic power supply, in my own opinion, Nigerians should rely more on solar energy to generate electricity rather than generators which in the first place shouldn't have been allowed in the cities.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 19, 2012:

Very interesting hub and I think we will continue to see more and more solar technology as time passes. Voted up and useful!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 19, 2012:

Hi teaches - thanks! There are so many creative applications for solar energy. I love the idea of solar paint and solar windows. The solar cooker is wonderful for camping, too. Thanks much, Steph

Dianna Mendez on April 18, 2012:

Solar equipment and tools certainly have come a long way! Solar cookers would be of great use when the power goes out. The video was quite interesting on this tool, too bad we didn't get to see the finished meal. I can see how solar energy would be of great benefit to outdoor activities. Voted up.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 18, 2012:

Thanks Rebecca, I love solar lighting! Such a fun way to start using solar energy. Best to you, Steph

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 18, 2012:

Solar energy is a fascinating subject. I can see lots of research done here. We have some solar energy border lights. Got them at the Dollar Store!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 18, 2012:

Thanks Kelley - besides diabetes, I probably know the most about solar energy (at least as far as hub topics). ;-) Cheers, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 18, 2012:

Thanks Faith Reaper - I've been researching and writing on solar energy for several years. Glad you found it helpful! Best, Steph

kelleyward on April 18, 2012:

I am so uninformed! Thank you for introducing me to this great topic. I'm now interested in learning more. Voted up!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 18, 2012:

Wow, Steph, never knew there was all of this. Thanks for writing and sharing this information. Great hub.

Faith Reaper

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