3 Super Cool Innovations in Solar Technology

There are cool things going on all over the solar industry. Some of these things are small - like solar powered gadgets - but some of these projects are massive! With the growing demand to shift to renewable energy, advancements in solar power are becoming more and more innovative.

Here are 3 cool solar power innovations happening now!

Solar Powered Yacht

silent-yacht solar powered yacht
Photo Credit: Silent-Yachts

Have you ever wanted to combine your love of yachting with your love of green technology? Well for 99% of us the answer is no but for people who do has a few million dollars burning a hole in their pocket, they're in luck.

A company called Silent-Yachts is the creator of the first and only ocean-going, solar powered catamarans. Their Silent 80 model runs off of electric propulsion and is said to be completely silent.

This solar powered beauty costs $5 million! So while most of us won’t be buying one of these bad boys anytime soon it’s cool to see solar energy finally being put to use for transportation purposes.

A lot of consumers wonder, “Why don’t electric cars have solar panels to recharge their batteries?” The honest answer is that the technology just isn’t there yet for it to make sense. The amount of solar panels necessary to power an electric car is not realistic. You’d end up with something that looks a little more like this boat than an actual car.

As engineers and researchers put solar panels to use in other forms of transportation we can hope that we’ll eventually be able to do the same in more useful ways. While a solar powered yacht is very cool it will be even cooler when cargo ships and cars can run off the sun as well.

Floating Solar Islands

One drawback for commercial solar plants has been space. Finding space to put hundreds or thousands of panels that is close enough to civilization to easily get the power to the people can be very tricky. Where there’s a lot of space there’s not usually a need for a massive solar farm.

In Chile though they’re putting solar panels to work in a different way. Mining is a massive industry in the mountainous country of Chile and mining takes a lot of energy. Enter solar power and Chile’s goal of being a renewable energy leader.

While each mine doesn’t have a lot of land to place hundreds of solar panels to power their mining operations, they do have lakes and ponds. These lakes and ponds are where the mines dispose of their refuse or tailings. One mine has decided to put their pond to a second use by adding a floating array of solar panels.

Two Birds with One Stone

This solar panels island will do double duty in helping the environment in Chile by helping to shade the pond and slow down water evaporation. Water is a scarce resource in Chile so any way to reduce how much water is funneled to their mining ponds can help preserve the water supply.

“With this system, we can make our fresh water consumption more efficient, in line with our goal of re-imagining mining and reducing Anglo American’s fresh water consumption by 50 percent by 2030, as well as the CO2 emissions by producing non-polluting energy,” said Patricio Chacana, Los Bronces’ vice president of operations.

It will be interesting to see the results of this solar project and how it might affect other solar projects in the future. Will other mining companies pick up this technique as well? What about lakeside towns and cities that don’t have open land to use for solar but have open water? Only time will tell.

China’s Space Age Solar Farm

We saved the biggest innovation for last, literally! China recently announced plans to build a solar energy facility in space. This would be the ultimate way to bypass needing space thousands of solar panels on earth. This orbiting solar farm would then be able to beam down energy to just about anywhere on earth.

NASA had been working on a similar project for years but never got past research because at the time the technology just wasn’t there to make it happen. It would have been nearly impossible physically and financially.

Is This for Real?

“This is not posturing; this is a real plan from serious organizations with revered scientists in China,” Mankins told CNBC. “They have a perfectly good technical plan, and they can do it [the megawatt-level station] by 2030.”

China’s planned station would orbit around 22,000 miles above the Earth and provide energy 99 percent of the time. The final construction will weigh around 1,000 tons, 600 more than the International Space Station.

So while this might sound like some super out there, Jetsons level technology, this could be a real possibility in the next decade. Experts say that this project has the potential to completely change the energy landscape but it could also bring us closer to ending our dependence on fossil fuels.

The Takeaway

Solar power is going to be a major part of the energy ecosystem moving forward. Solar plants are replacing coal plants and could be replacing natural gas soon as well. As the industry grows it's our goal to form an alliance with like minded solar sales and installation organizations.

Learn More About Why You Should Join the Alliance!