Editorial Feature

Five Applications of Photovoltaics You May Not Know About

Image Credit: rtbilder | Shutterstock.com

Moveable and able to be installed on almost any flat surface, photovoltaics are used in a number of ways in addition to solar farms and on rooftops.

Some of these uses, like powering a ski lift in Switzerland, are for convenience, but others provide a public service or even bring power to areas not connect to the power grid.

Below are a few applications that are outside the norm and somewhat practical.

Solar Backpack

Children living in remote parts of South Africa can't study after the sun goes down due to the fact they don't have access to steady artificial light. To solve this problem, South African Thato Kgatlhanye developed a backpack that not only harvests power from the sun to later power artificial light; it is also made from recycled plastic bags.

Kgatlhanye is the CEO of the company behind the backpacks, called Rhetaka Trading, and the business got a major publicity boost when Microsoft founder Bill Gates tweeted about their solar backpacks.

Kgatlhanye recently represented her company at Baltimore’s Light City event in the hopes of inspiring the city’s residents to embark on developing their own innovations.

Solar Plane

Solar power can do more than just light up a child’s bedroom at night. It can also take you across an ocean.

In April, the solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 successfully completed a record-setting journey, crossing the Pacific Ocean from Japan to California. The ocean-hopping journey was just one leg of the plane’s scheduled trip around the planet that began in Abu Dhabi. Due to a lack of emergency landing spots, the trans-Pacific leg was considered the most dangerous part of the trip around the world.

Image Credit: Kletr | Shutterstock.com

Solar Impulse 2 draws its power from the 17,000 solar cells along its massive wings, which are longer than a Boeing 747’s. The average optimum speed for the plane is a tortoise-like 28 miles per hour, but on particularly sunny days, it can double that speed. At night, the plane runs on a battery system that is charged throughout the day.

Solar-Powered Stadium

Sports are often ridiculed for being a drain on public resources, but the community around a dragon-shaped stadium in Taiwan may have a better case.

Designed by architecture icon Toyo Ito, the recently completed stadium not only powers all of its lights and two massive video boards with the solar array installed along its serpentine rooftop, it also acts as a power plant for the surrounding area.

The stadium boasts a solar array covering more than 150,000 square feet that it uses to power 3,300 lights. An official test revealed it takes just six minutes to get enough juice to power the entire lighting system.

The stadium is expected to generate 1.14 million KWh per year and power 80 percent of the surrounding area when games are not being held.


Probably one of the most unique applications of photovoltaics, Fontus is a device that fills up a water bottle by condensing water vapor in the surrounding air. Solar cells on the device power a condenser like the one found in an air conditioner or refrigerator.

The makers of Fontus say it’s designed to be attached to a bike for long-distance trips where water pit stops are few and far between. It is capable of generating produce 0.5 quarts of water in 1 hour in temperatures between 86 degrees and 104 degrees Fahrenheit and between 80 percent and 90 percent humidity

Public Solar Wi-Fi

File this under modern convenience; some businesses, community organizations, and local governments have set up public Wi-Fi hotspots powered entirely by photovoltaics. New York City, Tokyo and many other municipalities have set up these sustainable hotspots over the past decade or so.

Waste management company BigBelly actually recently incorporate Wi-Fi into its solar-powered public trash and recycling bins. The bins were already using photovoltaics to power an internal trash compactor.

References and Further Reading

Self-Filling Water Bottle Converts Humid Air into Drinkable Water

Dragon-Shaped Solar Stadium in Taiwan is 100% Powered by the Sun

Bigbelly's Wi-Fi-Enabled Solar-Powered Bins Could Lead to Smarter Cities

Solar Backpack Shines Light on Those in Need

Solar Impluse 2 Lands Safely in San Francisco after Historic Flight over Pacific

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Brett Smith

Written by

Brett Smith

Brett Smith is an American freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Buffalo State College and has 8 years of experience working in a professional laboratory.


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