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The Solar Revolution

When observing the rapid solar technological advancements that are currently occurring within the industry, it is clear that a ‘solar revolution’ has begun...

... and no, I am not talking about the movie! Of course many would begin to wonder, what is the proof behind such a statement? The combination of continued increases in solar efficiency, which according to researchers from the University of New South Wales has now peaked at 40%, along with the diverse ways the technology can be used, is the simple answer to such a question. In using the words ‘diverse ways’, I can truly say that the wide range of use and innovation in solar technology is quite remarkable; and is clearly demonstrated in different parts of the world, including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and right here at home in Australia.

  • In the Netherlands, the world’s first solar bike path has been introduced. The SolaRoad bike path consists of concrete embedded with solar panels with a non-slip glass surface. Future plans include using the electricity generated by the solar cells to power street lights, and to refuel electric bikes and cars via contactless charging. A major aim of the project is for Dutch roads to have such a technology commercially available within 5 years.

  • In the United Kingdom, the UK’s famous red telephone boxes that have become obsolete are being transformed into solar powered mobile phone charging stations. The painted green boxes with a roof mounted solar panel have been given the name solarbox (singular form). They are free to use, with users subject to watching advertisements while they wait for their phone to charge at the charging station. Each box can charge up to 100 phones a day, and can provide in 10 minutes, a 20% battery boost.

  • Right here in Australia, the development of printable ‘solar ink’ follows the same solar cell principle of capturing sunlight and transforming it into energy. Such ‘solar ink’ is used by a printer, which deposits a fine layer of this special ink onto a plastic material. This technique not only allows cells to be embedded into windows to generate electricity, but it can also be compatible for smartphone and laptop charging, given that printing sizes can be altered. Although such cells are less efficient than standard solar cells, its rapid development combined with its cheap costs and potential to be commercialized, makes it very promising.

Yes… the solar revolution may have just begun, but looking at such noteworthy examples, the future prospects and technological advancements within the solar sector will only continue to grow exponentially.

 

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) 2014, ‘The Netherlands unveils world's first solar bicycle path’, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, viewed 11th December 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-13/dutch-unveil-world-first-solar-power-bicycle-path/5888440

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 2014, ‘Phone boxes turn green to charge mobiles’, British Broadcasting Corporation, viewed 11th December 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29455992

Jayalakshmi, K 2014, ‘Record solar efficiency above 40% reported by New South Wales researchers’, International Business Times, viewed 11th December 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/record-solar-efficiency-above-40-reported-by-new-south-wales-researchers-1478468

The Guardian 2014, ‘Solar energy cells you can print out catching commercial eye, says CSIRO’, The Guardian, viewed 11th December 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/10/solar-energy-cells-you-can-print-out-catching-commercial-eye-says-csiro

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The Author

Elodie Wawrzyk

Elodie is a recent University of Queensland graduate, with a Bachelor in Environmental Management. She also has been recently elected as the Governance and Policy Co-Lead for Oxfam Australia's Queensland State Committee. She is also the Strategic Engagement Coordinator Co-Lead for Fossil Free UQ (University of Queensland) and Elodie is a strong advocate of the triple bottom line principle of Sustainable Development; and as a result she seeks to work with different stakeholders to incorporate a diverse array of renewable energy technologies in everyday personal and commercial activities.

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