Conventional photovoltaic installations bring just what you’d expect: a technology that maybe isn’t the most fashionable thing to look at, but provides a sound source of alternative energy. Thankfully, innovators are coming up with some unusual solar panels that are worth considering for new applications of this viable energy resource.
Juicing up a house through solar power is a phenomenon that has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. It’s a proven, effective means for supplying or augmenting power to a home to serve the electric needs of everyday living.
The one limitation with panels used for this application is that they are stationary. The sun moves across the sky over the course of a day, and the static photovoltaic panels can only collect sunlight during the hours that the sun is directly feeding its rays into the receptors.
Alright, then: if the panels can’t move...how about moving the house?
The Gemini Haus, built in Austria in 2001, is an award-winning concept home designed as a cylinder. Panels of various sizes are attached to a frame, which connects via rollers to scaffolding that is affixed around the exterior of the building. As the sun makes its journey across the sky, the panels roll along the track, maintaining a direct eye-line with the sun from the moment it rises to the moment it sets. Cut-outs in the framework conceal or reveal windows of the home as the day progresses. The design is leveraged to block or allow light inside the structure in order to maintain heat or cooling, as needed.
Proving that reliance on solar power doesn’t have to mean limiting the luxuries of life, the Gemini Haus boasts a Jacuzzi bathtub and a central vacuuming system. While the Gemini Haus is, at present, the only one of its kind, future innovations in photovoltaic design could render this concept more usable for widespread acceptance.
Press ‘n’ Power
Making solar power portable for on-the-go applications is an idea that has already come to the marketplace. Miniature cells laid into small packs allow people to run around town, powering up their mobile devices easily by setting small units outside, or on the inside ledge of a sunny window or laying out flat atop a car’s dashboard during a drive.
Developments made by a company called PowerFilm allow people to capitalize on that portable concept to energize items requiring greater power. PowerFilm press-on panels are fully waterproof, and even withstand the salty conditions of the sea. Install these on your boat, and no longer will you need to worry about running out of gas--your outboard motor can be juiced up by the sun to get you back to the dock without a care in the world.
Pop a panel onto your golf cart, and you won’t worry about getting stranded out at the 17th hole. Press a set onto the top of your RV, and you can relax, knowing that the vehicle’s battery won’t get drained by enjoying the comforts of home while you’re on the road.
Created by the same folks responsible for those tough-as-nails glass displays found on mobile devices all over the world, Willow™ Glass is a (ha!) breakthrough in virtually unbreakable glass that is so extraordinarily flexible, it can be wound as tightly up as newsprint on a roll. This is amazing enough as it is, but the glass is also touch-sensitive and responsive for all the tasks required in smartphones and other tech developments.
Now, that same glass is being embedded with photovoltaic cells to create fully bendable reams of solar collecting material. A finished item could be as small as a playing card, to catch power for a cell phone; a bit larger, and the glass can be molded into the shape of roofing tile and turn practically every square inch of a roofline into a solar collection plate; run a wide swath of material and it can cover every exterior wall of a building, turning the structure itself into a gigantic solar battery. The potential applications are mind-boggling!
And despite the fact that this product is, indeed, glass, its super strength makes it virtually impervious to weather conditions. So bring on the hail--the Willow™ Glass doesn’t mind!
These unusual solar panels open up entirely new vistas to incorporate the gathering of power from the sun in ways people haven’t ever dreamed of before. Such inventions are what lead us to the tipping point of the dominance of green energy.