Spectacular Solar Innovations


by Jamie Schmid It is hard to stay up-to-date with technology these days — let alone green technology — but I am here to help! Here are two pretty remarkable solar advancements that should strike your fancy.

London's solarbox

green-phone-box-GETMost of us are familiar with the image of London’s red telephone box. If not, you might be familiar with the Harry Potter films, in which, Harry takes the phone booth down to the Ministry of Magic, but I digress. That quaint, sleek, and very British telephone box recently received an environmental makeover thanks to two former students of the London School of Economics. The London payphone has been transformed into a solarbox, an invention that uses solar energy to power smartphones.

The London telephone box is iconic, yet seldom used by Londoners. Rather than having a practical application, the booths have become more of a tourist attraction (how many people can we stuff in a phone booth?). Due to their lack of use, six of these red boxes recently underwent a green paint job, and were fitted with solar paneled roofs that power cell phone chargers.

Inside the solarbox the public telephone is replaced by an array of phone chargers. Any pedestrian can hop in the repurposed telephone box and plug in their smartphone. Ten minutes later they come out with 20% more battery life.

As someone whose iPhone is constantly going from 100% to 2% in about 60 seconds, the solarbox seems to be an ingenious solution to a common battery life problem. Now, we just need to steal this public charging box and export it to America!

Solar Bike Lane

20141023142810_solarroadThe Netherlands are great: universal health care, lengthy maternity leave, high social trust, and bread. Now we have to add one more item to this list: the world’s first solar-powered bike lane. Yes, the Dutch outdid everyone once again.

Already known for being avid bikers, it makes sense that the Dutch would invent a green product involving cycling. On November 12th, the world’s first solar-powered bike lane opened in the suburbs of Amsterdam. Named the “SolaRoad,” this bike lane is made of concrete embedded with rows of solar cells and sealed with a layer of glass.

Contrary to popular belief, biking on the path does not generate electricity; rather the solar panels absorb energy directly from the sun. This energy can then be used to power streetlights, traffic lights, and surrounding households. Instead of having gaudy solar panels lining fields or parks, they are subtly incorporated into the urban landscape of Amsterdam.

Imagine if every road in the United States was embedded with solar panels. The amount of solar energy generated would be staggering. The Dutch are leading the way in green innovation, and as a result, many countries are looking to them for inspiration. The only down side is that the SolaRoad costs about $3.7 million.

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