Ultraviolet rays from the sun are the most powerful energy source available to most of the planet. As solar-electric technology races forward, nearly every open space on earth becomes a potential site for solar panel installation.
The most obvious locations for solar panels are roof tops and other open spaces. Although solar-electric conversion is not currently as efficient as wind power conversion, new discoveries in solar-electric power are making highly efficient solar panels possible.
Researchers are now proposing a quite unique application for solar panel installation and placement. The solar bench is designed to house an efficient solar panel under protective glass or clear plastic on the seat of park benches. The solar bench is intended to provide constant power to a Wi-Fi connection within the bench itself.
This is an interesting idea, but also raises some important questions. Aren’t most park benches located in the shade for the comfort of users? If these solar benches become popular, won’t the seats (solar panels) be covered much of the time? If located in the open sun, which would be the most efficient, could the seat become too hot for comfort? Is it really worth the expense just to provide a solar-powered Wi-Fi connection, when so many Wi-Fi’s are already available? Perhaps it would be more prudent to gather the power generated by a group of benches and collect it in a central location for wider use.
One possible change might be to add a roof over the solar bench and install the solar panels on the roof instead of the seat. This would make locations in the open sun more attractive to users and allow the solar bench to operate at peak efficiency. Another idea might be to create seating pavilions, since humans like to gather together, and make the entire roof an efficient solar panel.
Whether or not the solar powered bench is a success, the point should be that we need to encourage and facilitate continued out-of-the-box thinking such as this to move forward in developing renewable energy to the fullest extent as quickly as possible. It is through trial and error that we discover and refine ideas that eventually become world-changing innovations.
The human spirit and inspiration are the most powerful driving forces for positive change in the world and we will see the end of fossil fuel dependence in our lifetimes! How would you install and place solar panels?