It’s a Friday afternoon, and after a busy week, you’re a bit tired, and looking forward to chilling out over the weekend. You gaze out the window of your home office and gaze out across the sunny scene in front of you, just soaking in that sunlight and warmth for a moment, anticipating how good it will feel to bask in it over the weekend, starting later this afternoon.
Searching for a solution
As you look up to the nearby rooftops, you see that many of them have clusters of solar panels on them, gleaming in their silent role as gatherers of sunlight, quietly producing all that clean electricity, for free, no less. You ponder momentarily about how even though you’re not a technology person at heart, you can’t help but warm to the idea of solar panels just quietly sitting there providing a supply of ready-made renewable energy. That’s pretty cool, and a bit of a miracle, you think to yourself.
Unfortunately, that reminds you of your electricity bill, which is due next week. Ugh. It’s always higher than you expect, and it seems to be going up all the time. On the one hand, electricity is indispensable, especially in this digital age and with all our creature comforts (ah yes, your much-loved espresso machine would be a bit tough to give up).
However, it’s impossible not to wonder if it could be possible to avail yourself of a bit of that magic solar energy, at least to bring down your electricity bills a bit. And besides, it would feel good to know you’re doing your bit to lighten the load on the planet’s resources, right? Yikes, is that the time? Okay, back to work – just a few things left to finish up, and the weekend beckons!
A couple of hours later, as you finish your work day with a satisfied smile, you look up and catch sight of those solar panels again, and your mind returns to your earlier thoughts. That solar energy idea is hard to let go of once it takes hold: gloriously sunny, free energy that helps the planet. What’s not to love? There are just a couple of stumbling blocks for you, however…
For one thing, you live in a multistory apartment, so the roof isn’t under your full control. And even if you did, the cost of a full-blown rooftop solar installation is a big financial commitment that you’re not keen on getting into right now. Besides, who knows how long you’ll be living here. What if you get an offer you can’t miss in another city? Or you meet someone who you can’t live without who lives somewhere else? Or you decide to go live the good life out in the country? The bottom line is, you don’t want to tie up your finances in a ‘proper’ full solar system on your roof.
Solar Power Only Works On Rooftops Or Other Major Installations, Right?
If only you could have a scaled down solar power installation of some sort on your balcony, on your patio or just inside a window. And while you’re asking, can it please be portable, so you can take it with you, if that new job, life partner or country escape (or all three!) comes true? You chuckle to yourself, then say, why not? What’s so crazy about that? What’s wrong with wanting to get access to cleaner, cheaper energy?
Except for one big problem: solar power only works on rooftops or other major outdoor installations that receive lots of sunlight, right? And also, what about that sunlight – what happens when it’s cloudy? You begin to wonder…
Well, as luck would have it, you bump into one of your eco-minded friends over the weekend, and at one point, you share your Friday afternoon thoughts about getting your own little slice of solar heaven. Then you share your doubts about whether there’s any point thinking about it, living in your apartment, and worried that maybe those grey days may put a damper on the whole idea. Happily, your friend has some excellent news that gets you a bit excited about the whole idea…
Let’s Think Small and Portable, Shall We?
It turns out that there are solar power systems that do not involve the traditional setup of rooftop or ground-based installations, or even mounting lots of panels on the outside of buildings. This is a question of scale and innovation, about thinking smaller and more portable. With the right solution, you can now generate a healthy slice of your electricity via a small solar generator on your balcony, your patio or just inside windows that get a good amount of sunlight.
Oh, and about that sunlight: what about those cloudy days? Well, there’s further good news from your friend. It turns out that solar power systems can work not just with direct (i.e. bright) sunlight; they can also work with the indirect sunlight you get on cloudy days. Sure, they generate a bit less power, but they are very efficient.
This sounds very promising, but what about the investment – you know, that bit about not wanting to spend a year’s salary (or a big chunk of it, anyway) on a full-blown solar power system? Well, this is even more good news. There are now mini solar power systems, referred to as ‘plug and play’, that use say a single solar panel to collect and convert sunlight into electricity. All day long, every day.
And there are other innovations coming along all the time. Really, any surface can be adapted, so when you look around your apartment and see all the places where sunlight can land, you start to see several possibilities for mini solar power generating plants right on the premises of your own cozy home. And the good news is, innovative inventors and designers are right there with you, creating devices that do just that, such as this in-home solution.
Georg Kogler is the Managing Director of GK Electrics GmbH based in Liebenfels, Carinthia, Austria. GK-Electrics is a company specializing in the development and installation of individual photovoltaic solutions. GK-Electrics focuses on the design and implementation of individual photovoltaic systems for industry, trade and private households.
- Solarladegerät: Dmitry Galaganov | Shutterstock.com