by Maria Juniper, Contributing Editor
The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a prominent global electronics and technology focused trade show that takes place every year in Las Vegas. Held in January each year, it is known for introducing the latest technology trends and most innovative electronics. This year, solar energy was at the forefront with a huge variety of tech that utilize the power of the sun. Here are some of the most impressive solar-powered products featured at the 2016 event.
The GoSun Stove is a portable cooking stove that is powered by solar energy. The small tubular metal and evacuated-glass cylinder can reach temperatures of up to 550°F or 290°C. It is low maintenance, capturing the sun’s rays even on cloudy and winter days to steam, bake, fry, roast or boil meals in as little as 20 minutes. The highly effective solar oven is expected to help combat global warming by reducing dependence on fossil fuels for cooking. We should expect the latest model to ship by this summer.
Swarovski Fitness Tracker
One other trend at CES came in the form of wearables and fitness trackers. However, the Misfit Swarovski Shine, really stood out for its solar-powered design and flashy looks. The face of the tracker is a single large crystal embedded in a crystal-studded band, and the device is powered by a solar cell inside the central crystal. This fitness tracker combines advanced solar power technology with fashionable design, and is expected to make a splash when it comes on the market later this year.
Samsung Sol Bag
Samsung has created a different kind of wearable. The Samsung Sol Bag is a purse and a solar charger all-in-one. About the size of a small laptop, its stylish hexagon pattern belies the solar cells that charge your Galaxy phone in as little as four hours. Although it can’t store power (so you have to enjoy the sunshine a bit while it charges), it is expected to be quite a hit with consumers when it hits the shelves in late 2016.
The Sunbook 7 and Sunbook 14
The Sunbook by NRG – touted as “Simple Portable Solar Power”- is a basic concept that is quite revolutionary. This portable solar panel can be used to charge your phone, using the Sunbook 7, or your tablet with the Sunbook 14 with a basic kickstand and LED-light indicator light to ensure good sun placement. The detachable battery pack must be charged up in the sun before using it to charge electronic devices using free, clean, renewable energy.
Activeon Solar X
The Activeon Solar X is a video camera with a 2 hour battery life that is charged completely by the flip-up solar panels attached to its sides. Charging is supposed to require less than 30 minutes to reach 80 percent battery power. Video quality is 2,160p through a f2.4 wide-angle lens, and it has a 2-inch touchscreen and WiFi capability for uploading videos. It is expected to be available in March and is currently priced at $430.
All this focus on solar is unsurprising, since the solar industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. This is no surprise as renewable energy use has been steadily growing, accounting for 13 percent of the energy generated in the United States, according to Ohio Gas. Solar power, in particular, is an excellent way to reduce the human impact on the environment. For that reason it can be expected to be used in a wide range of gadgets and larger applications in the coming years.
by Maria Juniper, Contributing Editor
The gift that keeps on giving has never been greener, and the time to buy one for your friend or loved one is quickly approaching. This year for the holidays, instead of giving some trite piece of clothing or kitchen appliance, try looking for the perfect gifts for those eco-friendly friends who wants to help benefit the environment, or perhaps for a family member who could use anything to help decrease their utility bill. Buying a solar powered gadget can do both of these things and more and there are any number of gifts that would make the perfect choice for any number of people.
These can charge a number of different electronic devices depending on what kind of device you get. Some cheaper models may only power cell phones while more advanced ones can power laptops or higher-energy devices. They can range in price from $50 up to $250, depending on your budget and needs. Most will include about a 10-foot extension cord so you can charge your device outside while you sit nearby. Furthermore, you can also purchase solar powered batteries, most commonly AA or AAA sizes, which you can charge and then put into a device that needs batteries.
Solar Outdoor Lights
Solar lights can come in many different varieties and are very useful for anyone who likes to work outdoors in the garden in or on an outdoor workstation. They will be able charge through the day and then help illuminate a space at night to save any nuisance from charging with wires or electricity. Ranging from $30 to $150, some lights may be simple path lights to mark a walkway, while others may be brighter and more intense security lights that work in conjunction with your home security system. These can be programmed to come on automatically if there is motion and remain on for as long as you like.
Perfect for little tykes that don’t even know how much they want to save the environment yet, solar toys can foster an appreciation for solar energy. These green toys can range from model trains, houses, cars, or robots, ranging in price from anywhere to just $20 up to $200 depending on how much you would like to spend. Make sure the product is durable enough to withstand the age group for the child you’re purchasing, as these can be very specific sometimes.
These timepieces can range anywhere from wristwatches to desk clocks to radios, some of which are even water powered! These usually run for cheaper, often just around $20, so solar watches could make perfect gifts for close acquaintances or friends. Simply leaving the watch or clock where there is sun will power it for hours or even days, depending on the model.
Solar-powered backpacks can come in especially handy for those who love the outdoors. Ranging from about $80 on the low end on up to $200, these can help charge laptops or cell phones while on a hike or bike ride. As with other solar energy products, sometimes the easiest place to find them is to shop online because this will allow you to browse through a number of different options, read reviews, and make a decision without having to look at a limited selection and feeling pressured to buy something you don’t want.
Purchasing any of these items for gifts will bolster the solar industry and environmental movement. They are gifts you can be confident about giving and knowing that they will be met with excitement on the receiving end and they will, even more importantly, be of great use if given with careful thought and attention.
by Maria Juniper, Contributing Editor
Now that most governments, environmental organizations, scientists and even the Catholic Church have agreed on the need to combat climate change, innovative solutions are being sought in many quarters. The old ways of doing things simply won’t cut it now that we’re aware of the harmful effects of traditional means of power generation, such as the burning of coal and the combustion of gasoline. Solar photovoltaic panels are one means of addressing this issue, but this equipment often takes up a lot of space – land that could be otherwise put to productive use. Now entering the picture is a method for placing solar panels on top of water, a type of technology dubbed “floatovoltaics.”
Although there are issues with covering up the surfaces of lakes, ponds and other natural habitats, these elements of our beautiful landscapes aren’t usually under consideration for floatovoltaic projects. There are vast areas of salt water, waste water, reservoirs and other places in which floatovoltaic setups will have little negative impact on either wildlife or aesthetics. By employing currently-unused watery areas to collect solar rays, we can avoid having to devote agricultural or other productive land to this task. Floatovoltaic systems can achieve better efficiency in converting solar energy into electricity than traditional equipment. Because they’re constantly being cooled by the water beneath, floatovoltaic setups aren’t subject to overheating as ground-based solar arrays are. Research suggests that this cooling effect makes floatovoltaics 8 to 10 percent more efficient than old-school solar solutions.
The way it works is that the panels are tied together and secured atop bodies of water so that they can’t float away. Certain components, particularly the wiring, need to be waterproof, which means that floatovoltaic systems tend to cost more for the initial hardware and installation than a normal solar array. On the other hand, they’re relatively safe from erosion due to sand and damage from humans or animals. The electricity produced by floatovoltaics can be used locally or tied into the pre-existing electric grid to power homes and businesses some distance away. Indeed, one of the advantages to this means of electricity production is the fact that revenues can be generated by selling excess energy to energy providers and nearby utility firms.
Another aspect of floatovoltaics that’s getting a lot of attention in drought-stricken areas, like California, is the fact that by covering bodies of water, they counteract evaporation. The Los Angeles Reservoir has been losing a lot of water to evaporation, making drought-related problems throughout the state worse. In a bizarre scheme, officials released millions of “shade balls” into the reservoir. These balls are specially coated to block sunlight and thereby hinder evaporation, and they also inhibit the growth of algae. Instead of introducing these shade balls, which have raised ecological concerns among some observers, public authorities could instead employ floatovoltaic panels to achieve the same ends while simultaneously generating some revenue through the sale of electricity.
Several similar projects are already underway right in the Golden State. A winery in Napa Valley hired SPG Solar, since acquired by SunEdison, to place the appropriate infrastructure on an irrigation pond. This allowed it to avoid having to cut down valuable vines while still becoming self-sufficient in electricity production. Sonoma County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, has decided to lease the rights to six ponds full of wastewater to the company Pristine Sun, which will set up floatovoltaic cells. The project is expected to generate electricity for 3,000 households while bringing in $30,000 annually in payments for the water rights.
Japan’s Kyocera is one of the leading enterprises in developing this kind of solar energy. It has created the largest such system in the world in Hyogo Prefecture and is working on an even bigger project at Yamakura Dam in Chiba Prefecture. Amazingly, the equipment will be able to withstand winds stronger than 100 miles per hour and is designed so that earthquakes will not affect its operations. French firm Ciel et Terre is partnering with Kyocera for the job, and it’s also working on creating floatovoltaic systems for use in Thailand.
From populous India and arid Australia to tech-savvy Japan and green-energy-conscious Brazil, countries around the world are working on using floatovoltaic technology to augment their clean energy efforts. Because it uses much of the same equipment as normal solar power, albeit with certain modifications, we’ll see floatovoltaic solutions march step-by-step in line with further advances in the solar industry as a whole. Extending humankind’s renewable energy efforts to aquatic environs means that total solar production will increase without putting pressure on scarce land resources.
by Maria Ramos, Contributing Editor
Plenty of attention has been devoted to the growing adoption of solar energy systems all around the world. A tremendous amount of experimental solar projects have helped drive the progression of this renewable power source, bringing it ever closer to solving more of the Earth’s energy needs.
However, additional applications for solar technology are far removed from the surface of the planet we inhabit. Way back in 1958, the “grapefruit sized” Vanguard 1 satellite took off, becoming the first solar-powered satellite to launch into the Earth’s orbit. Since then, many other solar spacecrafts have been cleared for launch – but none quite like the LightSail, Bill Nye’s groundbreaking achievement in low-cost, “democratic”, space exploration.
Initially proposed by the legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan (founder of the Planetary Society, the world’s “largest non-profit space advocacy group”), the LightSail employs solar sail technology: sheets of material that unfurl and gather energy from photons emitted by the sun. This energy is then used to generate thrust for a spacecraft. The IKAROS probe, launched in 2010 by Japan, and the NanoSail-D2 satellite created by NASA are two vehicles that have used solar sails to prior success.
The LightSail, promoted by Bill Nye as the now-president of The Planetary Society, is a citizen-funded spacecraft which uses similarly designed solar sails for propulsion. These sails are made of Mylar and are only 4.5 microns in width despite having an area of 32 square meters. As light from the sun hits the surface of the sails, the momentum from the photons is transferred, in accordance with well-established physical principles, to the sailing craft. As one would imagine, the energy thus imparted to the system at any moment in time is trivial. But because there’s hardly any friction in space and the sun’s rays are always shining, these gentle pushes can accelerate the craft to very high speeds.
Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” that is he, is a powerful promoter of science literacy and awareness among the public at large. In recent years especially, he has also shown himself to be an adept orator and science communicator, debating with those who continue to denounce the reality of climate change. After establishing the LightSail project, he teamed up with renowned cosmologist Neil DeGrasse Tyson to create a video explaining the principle motivation behind their work. Inspired by Sagan’s infamous cosmic wanderlust, the LightSail establishes solar as a viable propulsion source for a tiny spacecrafts called CubeSats which will allow for low-cost space missions for research and education.
The LightSail took off on May 20th. It encountered several problems initially, such as delayed deployment of the solar sails and a brief lapse in communication. But it made a recovery, and the sails did eventually deploy and data has been successfully sent from spacecraft back to Earth-based scientists. And while this first mission had a few hiccups, it was enough to convince researchers to begin preparing the craft for a real test flight in April of 2016. Private groups have already contributed more than $4 million to the LightSail’s next round.
As Carl Sagan once said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” The growing prevalence of crowdfunded clean energy projects is indicative of a much broader trend – everyday people are increasingly aware of the need to both protect and better understand the nature of our world in the face of impending climate change. Whether it’s making the switch to a clean energy provider or backing another solar Kickstarter project, making a contribution (no matter how small) empowers individuals to connect with the planet in a more meaningful way.
If future hopes for the LightSail pan out, then it could mean a whole new way of exploring space by harnessing energy from the sun. By taking space exploration out of the hands of large government agencies and reducing its cost, ordinary people have the ability to invest in it in growing numbers. These advancements will likely tie in with the burgeoning solar power industry here on Earth, leading to more efficient and cost-effective solar energy options and a more hopeful future for our precious planetary home.
Researchers and product developers are on the cusp of designing solar cells that may be applied as a spray paint. This means that the surface area (rooftops, fields, etc) of solar collection may find its way onto everyday items, including shopping bags, labels and clothing. Lucelo Technologies in Texas is currently on that path and has (at an early stage) been able to develop a paint that is applied to surfaces and gathers solar energy that is converted to electricity. Instead of the traditional P-N exchange that is used in solar panel systems, Lucelo is able to use nano-crystals to absorb sunlight. And this solution is something that can be added to spray-applicators that you can buy at your local hardware stores. A true do-it-yourself solar system that can be painted onto the side of your home, rooftop, carport shelter, or even on tents while you’re out camping and need to get some electricity to run your LED lights at night.
Greater efficiencies in lighting (LED comes to mind) coupled with advancing rechargeable battery technologies will usher in this wave of do-it-yourself solar technology to just about anyone. Efficiency ratings for the current solar spray hovers around 3% (which is much lower than what current solar panels produce at 15%-20%), but give it some time. Just as solar panels used to have a very low rating, this new method will soon follow suit in building up its efficiency, thus making it a more viable option for low-power demands.
Mario @ Your Solar Link
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SOLAR PATH LIGHTS.
Stainless Steel Conical Solar Path Light (Set of 2).
Path solar lights are an excellent choice for lighting your garden paths, walkways, driveway perimeters and other regions in your landscape. They are often used in multiples to guide the way along a set of stairs or a dark walk.
Featured Stainless Steel Solar Light set uses 2 ultra-bright LEDs for maximum light output and minimum battery usage.
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STONE SOLAR SPOT LIGHTS.
Stone Solar Spot Lights (also known as Solar Rock Lights) completely camouflage with existing landscapes and look like any other rock in your garden.
SOLAR GARDEN FOUNTAINS.
How to start using ecologically friendly energy to power up your garden fountains and other garden water features?
Why not go with a solar powered water pump?
To accommodate your needs the Solar Fountain Pump Systems we carry range from 2 to 8 Watt. Browse our collection of solar water pumps for your fish ponds and solar fountains.
Enjoy your garden water features and your energy savings at the same time. Make a note of the various power levels and the flow rate of the solar water pumps before your purchase.
Please write us your review after your purchase. Your opinion is important to us!
DECORATIVE SOLAR ACCENT LIGHTS.
Solar accent lights (Set of 2) create an enjoyable and inviting glow for your landscape.
They are designed to mark a place.
Solar Spot Light - $26.99
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Solar spot lights like this one rely on energy from the sun to charge their batteries and provide light throughout the night.
This means that there is no need to tap into the electrical grid for these lights to operate.
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Learn more about Solar Spot Lights at http://www.yoursolarlink.com/solar-spot-lights, where we have a great selection of solar spot lights to choose from.
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