If you ever had a solar calculator, you know that getting power doesn’t have to take up a great deal of square footage. Because so much solar power can be generated and stored in a very small space, anyone interested in using solar can actually create a personal microgrid just for their needs or as part of a community.
1. A Solar Building
Germany has long led the way in renewable energy. The Heliotrope is a solar building that features a rotating array of solar panels. As it uses the sun for power, it also offers a lighter footprint in many other ways; for example, there is a grey-water management system and a built-in composting feature. As of April 2021, there are three Heliotrope structures in use.
When you open your portable solar panel at an outdoor coffee shop and boost your laptop battery, you’re creating your personal microgrid. If you charge up a portable battery, take it home, and let your roommate power their cell phone off it, you’re part of a microgrid community.
The investment for a micro solar setup can actually be quite small. In fact, there are small solar panels that you can clip to a backpack that can directly charge a phone, tablet, or laptop. There are also backpacks with solar panels built right in. Every step power consumers can take to lessen the items they need to plug into the main grid can lessen the need to burn fossil fuels to create power.
3. Solar Roofing
If you need a new roof anyway, adding integrated solar roof tiles to your home or commercial building can do a great deal to lessen your power bills and reduce your risk of exposure to a failed power grid. If the winter of 2020 and 2021 taught us anything, we know that having enough power to run a space heater can save your life and your water pipes. With a solar roof, the next polar vortex and series of rolling blackouts may limit your power use, but you can at least stay somewhat comfortable.
4. Community Solar
The buying power of the community can make a huge difference in poor neighborhoods. For example, a group of homeowners in a condo association can buy into a revolving fund to turn the square footage on the roofs of several buildings into a solar farm. Not only can this increase energy security for all residents, but it can improve the property values of these homes. Standing outside and watching your electric meter spin backward on a bright sunny day is a great selling point.
For commercial properties, a solar panel LED lighting system can offer a variety of benefits. Brighten your parking lot for employees and customers headed to their cars. Install solar-powered security or trail cameras behind a building to make sure your private access is secure. Use solar lights in the landscaping to brighten paths around your facility.
6. Rain Capture
One of the drawbacks to relying fully on solar power is that the sun doesn’t always get to your panels. New technologies that offer solar panels the ability to capture energy from the force of rain uses nanogenerators to generate power from the kinetic force of raindrops. Not only will these work on rainy days, but they will also generate power from overnight rains.
It’s important to note that each innovation in solar provides engineers and designers with several opportunities for off-shoot ideas. For example, the power of rain capture has long been considered a theoretical possibility, but the thickness and weight of solar panels made this process difficult. Recent developments in solar panel construction, from clear panels to the very thin peel and stick model, have moved kinetic power capture from theory to rooftop.
7. Storage Improvements
When your batteries are full, they’re full. However, recent improvements in battery capture, including the promotion of microgrid storage, mean that many parts of the world are getting closer to limitless solar storage.
Solar technology continues to expand as more and more users are choosing to power their own homes and apartments with small solar setups. Thanks to innovative investors and companies focused on long-term solutions, your ability to keep the lights and power on with low-maintenance solar panels is coming closer.