Just think of all the uses of electricity in our homes, such as lighting, cooking, heating, watching TV, playing music and even the internet and phone. Life as we know it can’t exist without electricity.
Australians are well-versed in creating their own cheap and environmentally friendly electricity using solar panels that are usually placed on their roof. In fact, Australia has the highest uptake of solar panels in the world with nearly 30% of homes fitted with rooftop solar panels. As technology advances, however, you will soon notice solar panels located in some very unusual places, as follows.
Windows acting as solar panels
Whilst not ready for worldwide manufacturing just yet, scientists in the US have built a window that can redirect both solar rays and light from indoors to edge-band solar cells. It’s then converted into electricity and tests have shown power conversion efficiencies of up to 2.9% using outdoor sunlight and 3.6% using indoor diffuse light (LEDS). Whilst this technology still needs more research, it will be very exciting if it leads to wide scale production across the building industry.
Car rooftops generating solar power
Lightyear, a Dutch electric vehicle manufacturer has developed a long range solar-powered car where the lithium batteries are charged by giant solar panels that cover the roof, bonnet and tailgate. Apparently, it can travel 725km from a single charge and is reported to be three times as efficient as other battery powered cars.
These solar panels have been designed to follow the contours of the car and have the same aerodynamics as the Mercedes-Benz EQS limousine. Lightyear already have it on the European market, but it’s not available in Australia yet. Just imagine powering your car using the sun as you drive along the road!
Solar panels in sheep farms
Large solar farms are popping up everywhere, but there has been concern they will remove prime agricultural land from the market. However it seems that sheep can co-exist with solar panels, because a pilot program located west of Parkes has had 120 merino sheep happily grazing on a 210 hectare solar farm since mid-2019.
This four year trial was initially instigated to allow the sheep to keep down the weeds on the solar farm. However, following a period of drought, the sheep have actually benefited from the trial, as the subsequent rainfall in the area ran down the panels and resulted in the abundant growth of feed, which the sheep happily munched.
Floating solar panels
With the concern that solar farms use prime agricultural land, another approach has looked into using floating solar farms on reservoirs and lakes. In fact, recent studies have found that these solar farms produce more electricity than either rooftop or ground mounted panels. Apparently, this is due to the cooling effect of the water that helps to generate up to 12.5% more electricity and it might even offset the effects of warming due to climate change.
Solar panels on airport rooftops
This is another project that is just in the research stage, but it’s believed that airports in Australia are in the best position to create solar power. It’s estimated that large scale rooftop panels at airports could actually power 136,000 homes and significantly contribute to lowering greenhouse gases.
All of this means that solar power is the way of the future and we can’t wait to see how solar panels will soon be incorporated into other aspects of our lives and infrastructure.