A Solar Power Plant on a lake as example for leading edge technology

Traditional solar power systems for commercial or public buildings were based on installing arrays of glass solar panels on rooftops or disrupting the facades of the buildings by bolting arrays of solar panels onto the exterior surfaces of the building. Each of these approaches offer benefits, but they also have limitations.

Rooftop installations will always have their place. However, there is only ever a limited amount of space available on commercial or public building rooftops. So in many cases, the business or public organization based in the building would ideally want to generate more solar power than the rooftop system can deliver.

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The natural next step is to take advantage of the exterior walls of the building as surfaces that could be used to install solar panels. However, traditional panels are bulky and heavy, which means that mounting them would require expensive and heavy-duty installation support structures. In addition, the building aesthetics would certainly be affected, and many would not view the result positively.

Fortunately, there is a superior solution: the use of thin-film ‘building integrated photovoltaic’ (BIPV) panels integrated into the façade of the building. This integration creates what are known as ‘active façades’, meaning that the building façade doubles as an active solar power system.

These thin-film BIPV panels have several key advantages:

  • They are lightweight, so can be integrated into the building façade without heavy, ungainly and unsightly mounting racks
  • They are flexible, so they can be mounted on curved surfaces
  • They can be used with a variety of building materials, giving them great flexibility in the range of façades they can be applied to, and they can blend into the building design (even to the extent of their presence not being obvious to the untrained eye)
  • They can be up to 50% transparent, so they can be bonded to windows, thus providing building cooling as well as solar power generation
  • They are very pleasing to the eye so that adding to the positive impression of the building being green, the building is seen to be a positive asset to the vicinity

Standalone Charging Stations

Stand Alone Solar Charging StationGo to any busy airport these days and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see travellers huddling around the few available electricity sockets, topping up the charge on their mobile phones. In today’s ‘always on, always connected’ society, nobody wants to have their mobile run out of charge. However, the high number of people running low on charge in airports is just the tip of the iceberg. At least airports have some electricity sockets.

What about city centers? Where do you go to top up your mobile? Well, maybe a coffee shop, if like airports, they have a socket for customer use, and if it happens to be free. The same goes for cafes, restaurants and hotels, though typically they have even fewer sockets available to the public.

What if none of those options is available? Wouldn’t it be great to have a ready supply of mobile charging stations, without having to duck into several of the above businesses, hoping to find a socket? Well you will be able to soon, thanks to an emerging innovation: standalone solar charging stations. These are set to become commonplace in city centers (for example, ebike charging stations), shopping center carparks and other public places (using innovative installations like these).

Not only will these be so much more convenient than the current makeshift solutions, they will inevitably enable untold numbers of people to maintain power to their devices so they can stay online to navigate to meetings, send vital messages and stay connected in other ways. Plus, this ability to stay connected is vital where personal safety is a factor: who would want their loved ones to be on their own in various situations without a switched on, powered up mobile? Exactly…

Home & Office In-House Solutions

Another exciting area of solar power innovation is the emergence of small-scale, movable solar power generating devices. While acknowledging the outstanding benefits of rooftop and ground mounted solar power systems, there is still further scope to tap into the full potential of solar power.

For example, private gardens and public spaces are rarely used for this purpose. What if there were solar installations that could make use of these spaces to generate additional clean energy, via devices that were functional and beautiful? That is exactly what is starting to emerge in a new generation of devices for use in the home and outside businesses or public buildings.

As another example, every window that receives at least a reasonable amount of sunlight, direct or indirect, has the potential to serve as a space for collecting solar energy and converting it into electricity. What is needed are convenient, efficient ‘plug and play’ devices that perform this role. Well, the good news is that they are already here, and can provide a valuable means to reduce power bills by generating free, clean energy.

Not only are these sorts of devices useful for lowering electricity costs, they help to further tilt the balance more towards using clean energy. In addition, these devices are beautiful and therefore create a positive impression, thus encouraging their use even more, influencing others to adopt this technology in their own settings. So the devices are also serving a subtle education role. That’s quite a return for just one device! As a result, these devices are set to become increasingly popular and commonplace quickly.

Articles in this section

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Image Sources

  • Stand Alone Solar Charging Station: BestPhotoPlus | Shutterstock.com
  • Solar Power Leading Edge: apiguide | Shutterstock.com