Most people think of solar energy technology as a way to power their homes and businesses, and the market for residential solar panels is a large one. The use of residential solar systems has risen about 20% annually over the past five years. In 2013, residential solar power systems were installed every four minutes, up from one every 80 minutes in 2006. Solar panels now cost roughly half of their price in 2008, the price having fallen 100 times over since 1977. Because the initial cost of solar panels keeps dropping, people are finding more ways to utilize them in other capacities than just powering homes.
The holiday season is a great time to harness solar energy technology, and strings of solar-powered lights are now available to make decorating the house a breeze. A small solar panel is fitted to a stake which can be placed in the ground up to seven feet away from strings of holiday lights, allowing homeowners to decorate without worrying about where they are going to plug in extension cords. Solar powered holiday lights are great for decorating older homes that don’t have an outdoor electrical outlet, or a place to run the extension cord into the house.
Leeds University graduate Emily Cummins has found a way to bring the benefits of solar energy to the developing world. By inventing a solar-powered refrigerator, Cummins was able to help people in remote areas of Namibia keep their perishable food fresh without requiring access to electricity. The solar powered fridge keeps an average temperature of 42 degrees Fahrenheit. The design of the solar powered fridge allows it to function without the use of solar panels, which can be expensive. Instead, it is engineered from two cylinders, one inside the other. Between the cylinders, water-soaked sand is located. As the water evaporates in the sun, the heat inside the cylinder is removed, creating a space to store perishable foods.
Other industries are looking to solar energy technology to power airplanes, boats, and electric scooters. The possibilities of solar powered devices is limited only by the ambitions of individuals.