Solar punk is a sci-fi futuristic view that sees our world and technology as powered by solar. It is a future that is broken away from the fossil-fueled ways of the past and a future that connects humans, technology, and nature together.
Take a look at the futuristic ways our cities, homes, and lives will be taken over by solar power. Everything from cities filled with solar trees to building drones with solar panels. What happens when you add robotics and ai to solar panels? Will they be able to start thinking for themselves and how will that change the solar movement
What other ways are people building solar farms as they move beyond land and start looking to the skies with solar balloon towers, how solar panels will be fused with Tesla's cyber truck, and what other ways will solar panels and solar power be used to build a more technologically advanced world since the amount of energy that the sun strikes the earth in one hour is enough to power all of humankind's needs for a whole year.
Futuristic Solar Trees:
Will there be a day when our city and town streets are lined with solar trees mixed with natural ones? Cities from Singapore to Marrakech already have these futuristic solar trees. Merging solar panels with a tree structure allows for more solar panels to be used without taking more floor space on the ground. Research Source
As the structures reach up and branch out, they also provide shade for hot city streets or even parking lots. Depending on the design of the solar trees, they can also give an area a more sci-fi-like and futuristic landscape, even lighting up at night.
There are a number of companies that work on building solar trees, such as spotlight solar, envision solar, smart palm Artemide outdoor, and smart flower You can see solar trees being used in different places around the world in Florida. Solar trees have been popping up in zoos, near museums, airports, and parks.
India has created the world's largest solar tree with 35 panels at the residential colony in Durgapur, and then there is Singapore, which has created a skyline that looks like a photoshop concept image, but these are real solar trees.
At ground level, there are 18 supertrees that collect rainwater and work as cooling ducts. Eleven of them have solar panels that power water pumps and power the supertrees when they light up at night.
The supertrees also draw in air, sending it upwards, creating a breeze at ground level. Visitors are able to walk up among the trees along the skywalks that connect them. All of this is part of Singapore's goal of creating a city inside of a garden.
Robotic Solar Panels:
What happens when you start mixing robotics with solar panels and make them smart machines that start thinking for themselves? The reason for adding robotic elements to a solar panel is that as the sun moves during the day and even the year, you want the solar panels to move too, just the way sunflowers do as they turn to follow the sun's rays. When mixing robotics with solar panels, there is the smart flower all-in-one solar power system. Research Source
It uses robotics and motors to fold out and follow the sun's path. This can generate up to 40 percent more solar power than a solar panel that sits still. At the end of the day, it will fold up and clean itself for the night ready for the next day.
People can even build their own DIY solar trackers at home using motors and a 3d printer as seen by this open-source project by the open-source classroom Cubotics was a company that created saw bots.
Instead of having expensive individual motors for each solar panel stand, an inexpensive railing was used to connect them. While the two robots worked together, driving to each solar panel stand to rotate them to face the sun, while one robot made the rounds, the other would be charging.
What about adding drones into the mix? How can they, along with artificial intelligence, add to the solar movement? Drones are used to map out plots of land and calculate the sun's exposure at different times of the day and year.
This lets landowners figure out where the best place to install solar panels is. Drones, along with artificial intelligence, are also able to fly over large solar farms inspecting solar panels for damaged areas.
This lets landowners figure out how drones fitted with solar panels can stay flying for months and what they are used for. Drones survey plots of land for the best place to put solar panels.
Floating Solar Farms:
Other people and companies are choosing to build on water, creating floating solar farms. One reason for building on the water is that there is more space available to build, and another big benefit is that the water keeps the solar panels cooler, making them more efficient. Ocean Sun has been building floating solar farms too. Research Source
Prototypes have been built on the west coast of Norway, in Singapore, and the Philippines and they are building full projects in Albania and South Korea. In the western Indian village of Gujarat, a solar power farm has been built on land but spreads across and covers a canal river.
Not only does the canal water help keep the solar panels cool, making them up to five percent more efficient, but the shade from the solar panels helps stop the water below from evaporating, saving the water for crops and people.
The shade also helps keep the water cleaner as it slows down the growth of algae. The project in India is called The Canals Solar Power Project and covers 750 meters of canal water in Gujarat and more states in India have been commissioning builds for solar canal farms.
The idea of using solar panels to create protective shade can also be used on land. Agri-Voltaics is a way of farming that uses solar panels on farmland while allowing food to grow under them in the shade. When watering the crops, the water stays on the soil longer and does not evaporate as fast.
This saves water as farmers are faced with climate change affecting water supplies and crop growth. Another benefit of growing food crops under shade is that the leaves grow larger as they try to capture as much sunlight as possible.
So far, we've discussed using solar panels on land and water, which results in larger, leafy food crops that are ready to eat. The solar panels also provide farmers with a different income source because they sell the energy back to the grid.
The Sun Hope Project:
But what about up in the air? Lightweight autonomous drones fitted with solar panels are flying in the skies for months at a time. Some are being worked on so that they can fly for up to a year.
They are being built to provide internet for undeveloped areas as well as communications, and they can be used for imaging and monitoring areas, for example, when natural disasters happen and for tracking wildfires. Research Source
Google had a project where they were developing drones to provide internet for rural areas, but they ended up moving onto large balloons instead. Google's balloon project is called Loon, and they use balloons that are as big as a tennis court.
These balloons use solar panels to power the equipment that beams down the internet network and keeps the balloons in the right place up in the air. There are also balloon projects being developed to generate solar power.
The Sun Hope Project is a project started by Joseph Cory and Dr. Pini Gurfil, an architect and an aerospace engineer. The balloons are filled with helium and are made from a solar integrated fabric. The balloons attach to a power cable, a control panel, and a helium supply cable.
This balloon system makes use of vertical space, effectively building in 3D rather than on a 2D plane like normal solar farms, and having balloons that can fly above the clouds allows for uninterrupted solar power. Nasa is also looking into using solar balloons for the exploration of Mars, or even Jupiter and Saturn.
When it comes to our homes, the most commonplace to put solar panels is on the roof, but companies such as Ubiquitous are working on making solar windows possible. They will act just like a normal window, letting you see out while adding more areas where solar power can be captured.
They could also be used as skylights on the roof or as greenhouses in the backyard. Not only will houses be able to use them but also buildings and cities, but where else could these transparent solar panels be fitted? Research Source
Car windows would be another user or even for mobile phone screens The idea of making solar panels invisible in windows can be applied to other materials as well.
For example, an Italian company called Aqua uses recyclable materials to create realistic looking tiles similar to Tesla's roof tiles, but the Aqua also creates realistic looking stone, wood, and concrete, which means they don't have to go on the roof; they can also be used to cover walls, allowing solar panels to be used with heritage buildings and landscapes while preserving the historical.
The Solar Cyber Truck:
When it comes to our roads, we can see solar panels being used on cars as barriers or even used to make the roads themselves. At present, Elon Musk's Cyber Truck can be used in remote locations because of its off-roading capabilities, and adding solar panels to it will allow it to go completely off the grid. Adding solar panels onto the back of the Cyber Truck would add 15 miles of range per day while adding fold-out deployable solar wings could add 30 to 40 miles per day. Research Source
Could this be Elon Musk's side project for developing human transportation vehicles to be used on Mars? When it comes to the streets on earth, solar panels are being put up as sound barriers in high-traffic areas.
These types of sound barriers are mostly seen in Europe, in countries such as Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. And lastly, there is Solarroadways, a company that creates specially engineered solar panels that can be walked on and driven on.
These are smart panels too, as they have microprocessors in them that light up led lights that act as road markings and can heat up the roads to melt snow and ice.