The solar ‘cool’ factor: When solar goes mainstream

Solar energy is being adopted and adapted by different people every day. While its traditional use is to power homes, around the world, you’ll see solar applied to bicycles, music festivals and even cinemas. Now, it seems solar is going mainstream and there’s a definite ‘cool’ factor.

Here, we highlight the top 5 solar applications that make solar viable for a wide range of uses – and it certainly turns heads.

Bluesfest – Byron Bay, Australia.

In 2013, Byron Bay’s iconic Bluesfest changed the game. The town hosted an Australian first – a music stage completely powered by the sun. The Lotus Palace stage was connected to the ‘Sunflower’, which was a 1.2 kilowatt solar panel structure (an off-the-grid system). The panels were shaped like flower petals, which were angled towards the sun, and powered the stage’s lighting and sound system for the time it was in use during the five-day festival.

The ‘cool’ factor: The Sunflower sound system drew less than half the power of a toaster, as a result of improvements in solar technology.

Burning Man – Nevada, USA.

Another festival to embrace the sun’s energy is Burning Man – an annual seven-day event in the Nevada Desert near a town called Gerlach. One of the popular camps on the playa, Fractual Planet, teamed up with solar company, SolSolutions to create a greener, more sustainable camping area for one of the camps (the festival is about 14km long and hosts about 63,000 people over the seven days).

The ‘cool’ factor: Their off-the grid solar system allowed the camp to power kitchen appliances, music and even light shows. This festival’s aim is to create a sustainable, self-sufficient community in the middle of the desert.

Sol Cinema – UK.

Paul O’Connor, projectionist and co-founder of Sol Cinema, created the world’s smallest solar-powered cinema in a caravan. Taking one year to build after one year of research, Sol Cinema cost about £20,000 (AU$38,000) to build, including the solar system, and holds about eight adults or 16 kids at any one time.

The ‘cool’ factor: In addition to being powered entirely by the sun, the cinema has been installed in a rescued caravan, using recycled carpets from a wedding marquee hire company. The LED projector housing is a former 1920s theatre light, and the curtains were donated by an antique collector. A truly sustainable cinema on wheels!

Solar World Cinema – Holland.

On a larger scale, there’s Solar Cinema – an international network of solar mobile cinemas. The Dutch team behind this green cinema aim to raise awareness and stress the importance of renewable energies. Its system functions much the same as a residential off-the-grid system, too. Operating as an open-air cinema, the photovoltaic system captures sunlight during the day, which is transformed into projection light at night via battery storage.

The ‘cool’ factor: Because the system produces enough energy for 10 hours of film screening, no extra energy source is needed. Learn more about batteries for home use.

The Solar Bike – Denmark.

A cool invention from one of the most bike-friendly cities in the word, The Solar Bike charges energy from the sun. Its on-wheel solar cells deliver energy directly to the battery – and even when the Solar Bike is standing still, it’s charging. Plus, it can get you from one place to another in great time with a speed range from 25km/h to 50km/h.

The ‘cool’ factor: When you’re riding it, the solar cells and the battery provides energy for the motor, so there’s no need for a charging point.