With our global reliance on dwindling fossil fuels, finding sustainable solutions should be at the top of the public agenda. Indeed, there are many positive developments in this regard, include the G20 summit, but more needs to be done if we’re to create a sustainable future for the generations to come. Here we take a look at the worldwide innovations in solar, and the inspiration they can provide to fuel our own environmental efforts back home.
Solar billboards in London, New York and Sydney
When is a billboard not a billboard? When it’s an Eco-board. Pioneered by Ricoh, the ‘Eco-board’ movement is here to stay, and is the first sign in Europe to be powered by two sources of renewable energy-5 wind turbines and 96 solar panels. Using a fifth of the energy of traditional electronic billboards, the Eco-board was created to showcase the company’s commitment to eco-friendly advertising initiatives, aiming to reduce environmental impact by over 88%.
The Netherlands: The SolaRoad Project
The Netherlands has long been known as the land of the bicycle, and it seems that the Dutch are making their country’s fanatic obsession with cycling generate significant stores of energy to boot. With over 250 miles of bike paths, innovators in Amsterdam created the ‘SolaRoad Project’, a project whereby keen cyclists ride over protected solar cells below the road’s surface. This is predicted to generate 50 kWh of energy per square metre each year, stored and utilised to power traffic lights, street lights and even homes.
Finland’s Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen Restaurant
Looking to put the ‘living in the moment’ philosophy into practice? Take a trip to Finland. Situated in the Kalasatama area of Helsinki, this innovative restaurant produces meals cooked by solar power alone. Consequently, the menu is structured around the amount of sunlight available; on cloudier days, the chefs will whip up quick flash in the pan cuisine, whilst on sunnier days you’ll be treated to slow-cooked favourites instead. In the UK, many of our plans are entirely dictated by the weather (which we try to fight against), so Lapin Kulta’s pledge to work with climatic conditions rather than fight them is an intriguing concept to consider.
Ota: Japan’s Solar City
A city dedicated to harnessing the power of solar? Meet Ota. Situated 80km North of Tokyo, Japan’s Solar City has invested in solar power since 1988, with all businesses and private residences in the city possessing solar panels across their rooftops. As one of the sunniest places in all of Japan, capitalising on these perfect conditions makes for an impressive sustainability solution.
Sustainability in the South Pacific
And it’s not just whole countries adopting the sustainability mentality. Tiny island nations, such as Ta’u in American Samoa are leading the way in solar, with their entire nation powered by solar alone. Through a combination of 5000 solar panels and 60 Tesla power packs utilising the scorching South Pacific sun, the island is now entirely self-sufficient, prompting other neighbouring islands, such as Ofu and Olosega, to follow suit.
Round the world with Solar Impulse 2
Think flying around the world on a solar-powered plane is something from a science fiction film? Think again. The success of Solar Impulse 2’s round-the-world flight has proved all the doubters wrong. During its flight, the plane used zero fossil fuels, relying instead on the power of 17000 solar cells embedded into its wings. Compare this to the 101kgs of carbon emissions produced per person on a traditional Boeing 747 flight and you can clearly see Solar’s potential as the energy of the future.
Global warming and flying
When it comes to carbon emissions, travelling by plane is up there with the best of them. As a nation, the advent of low-cost airlines has been warmly welcomed, yet ‘warmly’ is very much the operative word in this case. Global warming is a real collective concern, with rising sea levels and melting ice caps prompting us to re-evaluate our thinking of old.
Going green: innovations in the airline industry
As a response to the huge carbon footprint produced by planes, several airlines have made a clean green approach their prerogative. In Europe, AirFrance takes the lead in this venture, with its solid commitment to using biofuels and recycling. Over the pond in America, Virgin America has earned the title for most environmentally-friendly airline in the world for four years running, thanks to a combination of good fuel conservation processes and availability of carbon offsets.