When you think of solar panel installation, images that may come to mind might be homes in suburban areas, offices in busy metropolis’ and high-quality apartment buildings. While these are now a normal sight (thanks to our record year of installations in 2020!), there are also increasingly weird and wonderful places across the world using the sun’s rays to generate energy.
As solar experts, we love nothing more than finding out about interesting and unusual places where solar is being used, and in this article we’ve compiled a list of places that we think are the most innovative, exciting – and sometimes downright weird!
Id Mjahdi village in Morocco
As you’d expect, we’re huge advocates for solar panel installation, and would love to see every home in the UK convert to solar energy in the near future, but one village in Morocco is way ahead of the curve. Id Mjahdi village, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast became the blueprint for solar power.
Due to the remote nature of the village, and others like it across Africa, clean energy companies in Morocco saw an opportunity to use solar to improve the lives of its residents, and Id Mjahdi was the first to be chosen. Prior to the switch to solar energy, its inhabitants had to rely on candlelight and had a lack of a fresh water supply due to the cost of connecting such a remote village to the national grid.
Since the switch, residents have been able to set up schools for the village’s youngsters and adults who missed out on their education. Every home has also been equipped with an oven, fridge, television and water heater, something the village hadn’t had access to before. Solar power for the good of the people, that’s something we can get behind!
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
This is one we’re particularly proud of, as we installed them! Within the Botanic Gardens at Kew, Project Solar installed solar panels on the treehouse, within the treetop walkway.
London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage site offers stunning vistas and unique landscapes, making the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of London. The solar panels are used to light the treehouse in the evening, creating a calming and cosy ambience. Towering 80 metres above the ground, the treetop walk and treehouse allows you to immerse yourself within nature, and discover new types of plants and wildlife.
Kew Gardens is well known for its commitment to environmental issues, and the promotion of sustainable ways of life, which is one of the reasons we were so pleased to be chosen for the installation. Why not pay a visit next time you’re in the capital and see if you can spot our solar installation! You can find out more about our installation at Kew too if you fancy a read!
The ultimate meeting of old meets new. In this case, we really do mean old! Lindisfarne Castle, in Holy Island, Northumberland is a 16th Century castle in the north east and is a hotspot for visitors and tourists. It recently installed 48 solar panels to generate power for the whole castle, including the gift shop! The panels are invisible to the general public, unless you have a birds eye view.
The castle, which is looked after by the National Trust, produces 10,000KW in energy from the solar panels each year, and alongside other green initiatives set by the trust, has reduced its carbon emissions by 5.2 tonnes a year.
The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
When thinking about sustainability and design, sports stadiums aren’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind, but the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Atlanta is the world’s leading stadium when it comes to the environment. Home of the Atlanta Falcons American Football Team, the stadium has won plaudits for being one of the most innovatively designed arenas in the world.
Host of the 2019 Super Bowl, the stadium boasts 4,000 solar panels on the roof, as well as energy efficient LED lighting throughout the arena. It produces almost 30% less energy than average stadiums of a similar size – pretty impressive!
Solar panel powered planes
You’d be forgiven for thinking this one sounds a bit odd! While it’s pretty unlikely your next flight to Spain will be powered by solar, the first ever solar powered aircraft completed a mammoth mission of 40,000km across the world – all without using any fuel!
The project saw the first attempt of a round the world trip in 2015, with the aim of proving that clean energy can be used for aircraft. To put the benefits of solar aviation into perspective, if every aircraft in use today was solar-powered, the world’s energy consumption would be halved.
The solar-powered plane, named Solar Impulse, has two Jumbo jet-sized wings which contain 17,000 solar cells and while the two founders and pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg haven’t quite got the technology into commercial airlines yet, the mission remains ongoing. You can read more about their future plans here.
The Burj Khalifa – Dubai
It can be easy to think that the world’s tallest building would also be a big contributor to climate change, but you’ll be surprised to hear the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is actually one of the greenest buildings on the planet. Standing at 830 metres tall, developers building the Burj Khalifa installed a whopping 378 solar panels to generate energy for the building. When you consider the average UK home only requires on average 10-14 solar panels, you start to understand the scale of the project!
The energy from these solar panels is used to heat 140,000 litres of water a day for the businesses and residents that call the iconic building home. It’s estimated that the use of solar panels in the building saves 3,200 kilowatts a day.
The formidable structure, which is home to hundreds of multi-million-pound businesses, also boasts luxury abodes for over 900 residents. As one of the world leaders in using sustainable energy, the United Arab Emirates is setting the benchmark for solar use in both commercial and residential settings. An unexpected choice for your next eco-holiday?!
Cincinnati zoo – USA
As you can imagine, caring for hundreds of exotic animals takes a lot of energy, so Cincinnati zoo had the genius idea to use their customer car park as a way to generate solar power! By building a canopy of 6,400 solar panels over their nearly four acre car park, the Ohio-based zoo generated enough energy to power the equivalent of 200 homes each year. The canopy also doubled up as shade from the sun in the hot summer months – a win win for the environment and its customers!
The future – solar panels in space?
It might sound a bit like science fiction, but the future of renewable energy could mean looking beyond earth to provide our planet with power.
We all know climate change is one of the biggest challenges for humans, and while we’re making huge strides towards a greener globe, drastic action may need to be taken. Sending solar panels into space could be the answer. Ensuring 24-hour sunshine as the earth rotates, alongside extra absorption from the earth’s atmosphere could be the future of solar panel use. We’ll dust off our gravity boots!