There are days my mind can’t help but wander to what the future may bring. The most exciting potential for solar is the ability to practically build with it. Solar roads, solar bike paths, solar pergolas and carports, even solar balconies. Covered parking with solar in lots to protect the cars. I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone build things out of something so fragile? Short answer – THEY are NOT Fragile!
I’m not sure how solar power got this reputation; the reputation of being fragile? Perhaps it is because most technology is considered to be fragile and solar is considered to be a technology. But actually it’s not; in many ways, it is a tool of infrastructure. You can drive trucks over a solar panel and it’s still good to go. You can cover a building with the right kind of glass, and solar panels use similar high strength glass as well. All that said, they don’t weigh that much either. I can pick a 4 foot by 6 foot panel up with one hand.
Now that you know that constructing with solar is possible, let’s look at a few of the newest applications on the horizon that allow you to build and make power all in one.
Solar roads are a neat idea. They often say that part of why cities are hotter is because all that asphalt soaking up UV rays and then radiating it off all day and night in the form of heat. What fine logic is it to build the roads out of solar panels? Let them soak up all that UV light and then channel that power back into the grid, or at least into the nearby street lights and traffic signals. School zone signs have been solar powered for quite some time now. I’m surprised that solar traffic lights are not more prevalent. Just think how much money the city would save if all the traffic lights were making their own power!
Another idea that is taking shape are solar bike paths. I love bike trails, and while I usually looks for trails that have shade so that I don’t get too hot, inevitably some of my favorite bike trails are right out in the sun for miles and miles. Solar powered bike trails could feed right into the grid at the trail head and help with the city expenses. After all, any good quality solar panel lasts 50 to 60 years! That is plenty of time for them to pay for themselves three of four times over, compared to continuing to buy all that power from the power plant.
These ideas help cities with their costs; now let’s help everyone else. Another future concept of solar usage is solar transportation, solar cars solar semis and even solar planes. The possibility is out there for an electric car to be completely solar powered, but we don’t have to wait for that to become more mainstream before we use the idea. Solar cells embedded on the roof of the car would make it possible to run all the electronics in the car without feeding off of the gas engine. Even better, imagine being parked somewhere waiting to pick someone up and you could have the engine off and still have the AC on. It is quite possible to build a solar car while still maintaining an aerodynamic shape to the vehicle.
Solar semis would really help the food shipping industry. Imagine mounting solar panels on the roof of a semi trailer that is a refrigeration unit for shipping food. The amount of gas you would save! And it could sit there unhooked and still keep itself cold. Solar airplanes are in our future. Airplanes travel at the strongest level of UV exposure. If they were integrated with solar cells, they could lessen or eliminate their dependence on fuel. Solar can generate a lot more power that most people realize. This is hardly a future concept, it’s something that the industry could do now. Unfortunately, it is sorely underutilized. As batteries get more reliable and lighter weight, these future possibilities will get even more exciting.
The other exciting innovation with solar power is solar glass or PV glass. These are clear solar panels. They can be used to make windows or even entire glass skyscrapers and also generate power. This kind of glass is still insulating and reduces sound. In the future all of your windows will be able to help you power your house, your outdoor space could be covered with PV glass, and even the windshield on your car might generate energy!
With solar, the possibilities really are endless. I can’t wait to see what the next few years will bring and how you will decide to use solar power in your life!
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