Residential solar installations and utility-scale generation plants are not the only use for solar panels; micro-generation opens the door to endless possibilities where relatively small amounts of electricity are needed. These inventions range from extremely simple to cutting-edge — from convenience to life-saving — but no matter how big or small the application, the benefits of micro-generation are undeniable.
Solar Powered Trash + Recycling Compactors
Solar powered trash and recycling compactors are found across the country. These bins can hold up to 8 times the waste of a non-compacting trash bin of the same size and reduce trash collections by 80%. With less litter on the sidewalks and fewer garbage trucks on the road, cities are saving money and our communities and environment are cleaner.
Solar Powered Water Fountains
Innovative uses for solar micro-generation do not have to be massive or groundbreaking. They can be as simple as using the sun’s energy to power a fountain pump or a birdbath. Solar fountains do not require an electrical cord, allowing them to be installed anywhere without disrupting the aesthetic of the area. Small changes, like using solar energy to power your outdoor water fountain, can add up to make big differences. Make sure to tap into the potential of solar with small adjustments!
Solar Powered Street Lighting
Street lights are key safety features of urban, suburban, and even some rural areas. Solar powered street lights are off the grid, allowing streets and public areas to remain safe and well-lit during power outages.
From campsites to developing countries, solar cookers are changing the way people prepare their food. Solar cookers concentrate sunlight and trap heat energy to cook food or pasteurize drinks. These cookers can be produced at a low cost – you can even build your own – and do not require any other fuel source.This means less money spent on fuel, less deforestation and pollution from people who would otherwise be using wood-burning stoves, and fewer health issues caused by stove smoke. Instead of using a charcoal grill this summer, see how well a solar cooker can make popular potluck recipes!
Solar Powered Brewery
The Arbor Brewing Company in Michigan uses the power of the sun to help make beer. The company has a solar system that generates not only electricity for the building, but the majority of the hot water used in the restaurant and brewery. Solar powered breweries are popping up all over the country: the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company uses heat recovery units to capture and use energy that would otherwise be lost, and the New Belgium Brewing Company heats water with a solar thermal system. Drink a beer and save the world.
Solar Powered Refrigerators
Solar powered refrigerators can save lives. These refrigerators have been used to transport vaccines and deliver life-saving medicines that are typically unavailable to isolated areas or after natural disasters. Solar refrigerators can also make a difference in your home. When the power goes out in your home these refrigerators continue running and prevent your food from spoiling. Check out the concept here.
Solar Powered Tent
Solar powered tents give a new meaning to “glamping.” With these tents, you can spend time in the great outdoors while keeping your phone charged to keep you connected to emergency services or to take pictures to share with your friends and family.
Solar Powered Vehicles
A solar-powered boat can reduce harmful pollution to water and can travel much farther without refueling. Whether you’re using it to relax on the lake, spend the day fishing, or travel the world, it reduces noise pollution (no more scaring fish away with a loud motor!), keeps the water clean, and reduces fuel costs.
Even planes can be powered by the sun. The Solar Impulse is a plane powered exclusively by the sun. This plane flew around the world, spending more than 23 days in the air, without using any fossil fuels or producing any pollution. Pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard accomplished their goal to demonstrate the amazing capabilities of solar energy. When it comes to solar energy, not even the sky is the limit.
ZubaBox: Solar Powered Internet Cafe
The ZubaBox is an internet cafe housed in a refurbished shipping container. It uses the sun’s rays to power lights, a ventilation fan, and outlets that can charge up to 10 mobile phones, 11 computers, and a printer. Some ZubaBoxes are even used as classrooms, bringing life-changing opportunities to developing regions.
Solar Powered Homeless Shelters
Solar power has the potential to improve the quality of life for the homeless. An all-girls science club in California designed a durable and waterproof solar-powered tent that is able to charge electronic devices, provide light, self-sanitize, and even fold into a backpack for easy travel. The electronics for the tent only cost $40. Life-changing concepts can come to fruition when everyday items are combined with solar power and just a bit of creativity.
Solar Powered Marijuana Cultivation
The legal marijuana cultivation market is operating in a total gray area and will be for the foreseeable future, but one thing is certain: growing this light-intensive crop is polluting the air. Marijuana cultivation is estimated to produce 15 million metric tons of carbon emissions every year. Using solar energy to power the grow lights is a fantastic way to offset those emissions. It’s important that this green industry gets off to a green start.
Solar Powered Backpacks
Whether you’re spending the day hiking or walking around town, a solar powered backpack can keep your phone and laptop charged. Some backpacks even come with extra features like LED lights or hydration packs! Enjoy nature with the help of eco-friendly energy.
Weather- and slip-proof solar panels are being installed in pedestrian walkways to help supply power to nearby buildings. Since the first solar-powered walkway was constructed at George Washington University in 2013, the technology has slowly been adopted worldwide. For example, the Green Quarter shopping mall in Astana, Kazakhstan now uses two sets of pedestrian panels to help power the building.
Solar Parking Canopies
Parking canopies can do more than just keep your car cool on a sunny day. Also, they are a space-saving way to generate clean electricity. As there is rarely enough cheap land in or around cities for solar plants, uncovered parking lots are a perfect urban home for solar panels. Solar canopies can add more use to the same plot of land, and save you from being burned by your steering wheel.