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Solar Cells? What Use are they?

May 13, 2016

Ok, so you are probably thinking, solar cells, what's all the fuss about, they are used to make soar panels mounted on houses to help save electricity right?

Right, they are, they are also used commercially for the same reason, and if you take a wander up your road you may find the street lights have little black solar cells driving them, as do other traffic signs. Did you know that satellites draw their electric power from solar cells? As do lighthouses and emergency shelters and cabins in the mountains.

Those are some of the more obvious uses for solar cells, but we thought it would be fun and interesting to take a look at a few you may or may not have considered. Why would you want to do that?  Well, in the average European home digital devices account for some 15 to 18% of the household energy consumption. Dismissing the cost in dollar terms for a moment, that is quite a significant contribution to the global carbon footprint. That doesn't figure in the two and a half billion batteries that are discarded in the US each year which will eventually leach nasty chemicals into our food chain.

So lets look at some green, solar cell  alternatives to some common and not so common things we [might] use on a regular basis

The great green outdoors
If you are an out door type and like to pack up the car and kids at weekend and , err “rough it” in the open air for a few mights this might appeal. Now, you can walk into your tent at night and switch on the lights. Ok, yeah, we know you can do that already, but the thing is, it probably uses that rather large D cell battery, and eats them like a hungry horse. But now you can light your tent with LEDs powered by a small roof [do tents have roofs?]  mounted solar cell. 6 or so hours of sunlight produces about 3 hours of light. You can enjoy your weekend in nature even more knowing you are saving money and not dumping deceased batteries.

Chill out
Let's be honest, the modern home seems to be all electric driven, it is hard to find an appliance or gadget that doesn't run on AC current or batteries, so even a small saving is a step in the right direction. Enter the solar refrigerator. It's been around for a while in various prototypes but now is now commercially available.

Based on a top loading chest type freezer design, this cabinet uses the same system as your current 'fridge and operates within the same temperature range. The only difference is it does all that cordlessly. It plugs directly into solar cell panels which require around 4 or 5 sunlight hours per day, plus it can save excess energy for darker days.

Talk to me babe!
Yes, the can't do without mobile phone has gone green. Apart from eliminating many of the hazardous or down right dangerous substances such as arsenic, bromide and zinc, from our beloved little gadget, manufacturers  include solar cells for on the go recharging. Sure, currently an hours sunlight provides only around 10 minutes talk time, but it is a step forward. On the same topic,  now you can fully echarge your phone from a solar cell unit instead of having to find a wall socket, and did you bring the USB lead with you?

So, maybe now you can see why people are excited about solar cells and just how they can help us not only save money but curb our Co2 emissions and limit environmental damage.

Next: Will Tesla Ever Make a Solar Cell Car?

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