8 Innovative Solar Panel Uses

February 5, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

The popularity of solar is beginning to grow as we develop new and more innovative ways to use this valuable source of energy. We have it on the rooftops of our houses and businesses, it’s being used to create significant amounts of electricity through solar farms, and it’s even being used on a smaller scale to power up our smartphones and tablets.

With research and development moving on at a fair pace, here are just some of the new and interesting ways in which solar pv will be affecting our lives in the future.

The Solar Boat

We’re used to seeing solar being used to power our cars, even if the technology hasn’t quite taken off yet. But Planet Solar has developed the world’s largest sea going vessel that is powered entirely by solar panels and actually sailed around the world between 2010 and 2012. It has won numerous awards for its innovation and may well be the precursor to our shipping fleets in the future.

The Solar Plane

If you can power a boat to sail around the world on the energy from the sun, then why not invent a plane that uses solar panels. That’s what the Solar Impulse has been trying to do since it began development way back in 1999. With its first test flights in 2010, and a coast to coast trip across America already successfully completed, 2015 will hopefully see the first round the world trip of this sun powered aircraft.

Cooking Your Dinner with Solar

It’s not just the big things that solar panels are being used for. Sometimes the smaller inventions are more meaningful, especially when they help those who are off grid get a hot meal. The Sun Oven can reach temperatures of up to 400 °F and is capable of helping you to cook any meal by steaming, baking or boiling.

Taking a Trek with Solar

There are now a number of useful backpacks that have solar panels stitched into the outer layer which means you can charge up your digital devices when you’re trekking out in the wilds of Borneo. One such company that sells these products is Voltaic Systems which offers a wide range of back packs and standalone systems that can make a real difference when you’re off grid.

Off-Grid Solar

With almost 1.7 billion of the world’s population off-grid, which means they have little or no access to a reliable electricity source, the development of innovative solar panels solutions is making a big difference. If you take an area such as Uganda where 80% of the population has a smartphone but only 5% have access to a standard electricity supply, companies like Buffalo Grid are making life much easier for many people in more remote places across the world.

Solar Parking

One of the most important innovations in solar panels is not necessarily about technology but where we use them. Increasingly we are looking at spaces in our cities where panels can be installed and provide a significant amount of electricity locally or to the Grid. With the development of thin film solar cells, solar panels are also becoming more adaptable and companies like Honda are incorporating them into areas such as parking spaces.

Solar Balloons

Rather than putting solar panels onto our rooftops, the future may be in more off-the wall ideas such as solar balloons. Cool Earth has been working on developing such structures since 2008 when it crowdfunded around $21 million to finance its business. Their aim is to work to bring the cost of solar down as much as possible so that it becomes the technology of choice for everyone to produce electricity.

The Solar Cinema

It may be a little quirky but it proves that innovation isn’t just the province of our major research companies and governments. In South Wales you will find the smallest cinema in the world and it is all powered using solar panels. It can house 8 adults reasonably comfortably or 10 children and has the great advantage that it can be driven around the countryside and set up anywhere the customers want.

The Future of Solar Panels

The more we innovate, the greater our chances become of producing solar panel technology that reduces our dependence on harmful fossil fuels. One of the most important innovations in recent years has not been in the development of different systems and solar PV cells but in giving ordinary people the incentive to invest in the technology. That includes the government’s Feed in Tariff initiative in the UK which encourages domestic premises and businesses to invest in solar panels and make a profit on the side.

As long as this kind of initiative continues, the future of solar panels looks particularly bright.