Solar Innovations - Solar Citizens

Five Solar Innovations

Written by Pauline Tan, Solar Citizens intern.

We have been harnessing the sun’s energy to power our homes for over 50 years. Not only revolutionising the energy sector, but with innovative thinking, we are using the sun’s energy in new and exciting ways. Here are some top solar innovations repowering different industries – the future is looking sunny and smart!

1. Waste

Clean power and clean streets! Solar Bins are already found in numerous communities; this bin is specially powered by the sun to compress 5 times the amount of waste in a 120L bin. It reduces the occurrence of overflowing waste, frequency of bin collection and ultimately, waste management costs.

2. Water

The sun is turning on the tap! Special solar panels are being used to capture drinkable water straight from the air. In a process similar to condensation, the sunlight is used to generate heat in special panels of material, which in turn allows it to absorb moisture from the air.

The panels are currently being trialled in Australia to see if it can help alleviate the dependency on plastic water bottles, as well as to provide fresh water to communities facing water scarcity. Even in arid climates with humidity levels well below 10%, this solar innovation can still extract at least 2L of water from the air.

3. Concrete

Forget external solar panel systems! A new method of concrete-laying includes a layer of photovoltaic cells allowing for the concrete to generate solar electricity. This makes the solar panel system ‘invisible’ and less bulky. Maybe soon the concrete under your feet could be generating solar electricity too!

4. Fashion

A new twist on being fashion forward! Shirts have been invented with 120 thin solar cells embedded into the fabric. Producing approximately 1W of electricity, these shirts produce enough to charge your portable devices. A hidden battery pack is located in the front pocket, allowing electricity to be stored for when your phone needs some extra juice.

5. Printing

This is a cool method being developed that allows solar cells to be more portable and flexible. Solar cells can now be printed onto flexible plastic films – a process similar to how banknotes are made. This allows the generation of solar electricity to be more flexible and portable. Printing could be a new method that could fast forward the development of other innovations such as solar fashion.