Eureka: Incredible Solar Powered Inventions

Solar power is an important source of renewable energy that can be used to fuel a multitude of items, including our lights.  Over recent years solar power has become an increasingly popular source of energy and has been at the forefront of some rather interesting inventions. Nowadays, scientists and manufacturers are beginning to harness the sun’s energy and using it to power all sorts of wonderful creations, including wheelchairs, cars and hearing aids.

Have you ever been out when your phone has died and you desperately need to charge it? Well there’s now a solar plug socket so that you can charge your phone wherever you are, without the need for electricity. After all, solar energy is the power of the future, and so it’s about time that our normal day-to-day electricity powered items started to use cleaner solar energy. Our new infographic explores the most incredible inventions that run on solar energy, including homeless shelters and ferries; take a look below!

Solar-Powered-Inventions

Where to Find Sun All Year Round

At this time of year many of us find ourselves day dreaming about sunnier weather. Right about now it feels like it’s been winter forever and that there’s no end in sight. But while the U.K. might be in the midst of a cold snap, there are plenty of places around the world where the sun is beaming and the temperatures are well into double figures!

Our latest infographic explores the sunniest destinations around the world, all of which have upward of six hours of sunshine a day on average. Whether you’re looking for a bit of sunshine in Europe or further away, it’s possible to get on a plane and find destinations that experience sunshine practically all year round.  From Malta which sees 300 days of good weather a year and over 2095 hours of sunshine in 2015, to Florida which averages 260 full days of sunshine a year, there’s a location for everyone. Which of the destinations below would you like to visit for all year round sunshine?

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20 Seriously Strange Things You Can Find in Space

When we look up at the sky it can be hard to comprehend that there’s a whole universe out there, consisting of much more than just planets and stars. Have you ever wondered what else is out there? No, we’re not talking E.T… As well as the aforementioned planets and stars, space is home to a wide range of weird and wonderful objects and phenomena.

Our latest infographic explores the strangest things you can find in space; including Lego, copper needles, a rain cloud and a photograph of an astronaut’s family. Take a look at the infographic below and discover a whole host of strange objects that are out of this world!

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The World’s Most Dazzling Christmas Lights

It’s coming to that time of the year again… Christmas! Yes, the decorations are coming out, the children are writing their letters to Father Christmas, and the turkeys are being ordered. There are so many iconic parts to Christmas, but one of the most important has to be the Christmas lights. Whether they’re decorating trees in homes, or houses themselves, they always seem to add that final touch to the Christmassy feel.

All over the world, people flock to big cities in order to see the famous Christmas lights that are on display in their country. Not only are they always spectacular to see, but it’s a special way of gathering people together to get them into the Christmas spirit. Our latest infographic showcases how different countries decorate their famous cities, highlighting how each country has their own unique way of presenting their Christmas lights.

How many have you seen? Or, if you haven’t seen any, which would be your favourite one to go and visit? Oh, and Happy Christmas from us here at The Solar Centre!

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Memorable Lights From Literature Infographic

It’s enlightening to discover how important a role lights can play in literature. You may have read some of these novels; you may even have read and seen them all. But did you ever realise the significance of the lights, and how this contributed to the overall story?

Our latest infographic describes memorable lights that exist in these tales, and explains how the image of light is used, perhaps for symbolism or imagery. It’s also interesting to see how light often makes an appearance in woeful stories, where the light and the dark are usually conflicting images.

Are there any memorable lights that you can think of from literature that aren’t on our list? Are there any that you’d read about but never really paid attention to?

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Solar Lights Not Working? The Ultimate Guide

Top 16 tips to get your Solar Lights back up and working.

  1. Cover that panel
  2. Replace those batteries
  3. Dodge the shadows
  4. Is that the best angle?
  5. South Facing?
  6. Water ingress
  7. Hungry Squirrels?
  8. On /off switch
  9. Passive Infra-Red (PIR) dials?
  10. Lux sensor dial?
  11. Battery seating/strip
  12. Charging behind glass
  13. Is it plugged in?
  14. To solder or not to solder?
  15. If all else fails there’s always the mains
  16. Grubby solar panel

 

 

  1. Cover that panel

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Covering the solar panel will often trick the lights into thinking night time has arrived early and therefore the light will come on. Solar lights typically stay off automatically by day as they are busy converting the light into energy to be stored in the batteries. This energy is then used at night to power the light. If it’s well after dusk and your light hasn’t come on cover the panel, if it does decide to work you know there’s another source of light hitting the solar panel that’s tricking the light into thinking it’s still daylight. Sometimes a subtle tweaking of the panel location can remedy the situation and have your light behaving as it should do.

  1. Replace those batteriesbattery

Did you know that solar lights often have regular rechargeable batteries inside them? They should always be rechargeable batteries; NiMH or, in more modern products, Li-ion batteries. Because the batteries charge by day and discharge by night, when the light is on, the batteries will lose their charging capability over time. A sign this might be happening to your lights is reduced runtime in the evening, even after a sunny day. Good batteries should last for 1 – 2 years or more before they need replacing but this is only a guide. Some customers tell us they’ve had lights running for more than 6 years and are still using the original batteries – this is the exception rather than the rule though.

  1. Dodge the shadows16948728780_1d8a225209_z

Shadows are best avoided, particularly any falling on the solar panel a couple of hours either side of midday when the sun is at its strongest. Every 3 – 4 months it’s worth taking a quick look at the solar panel around midday to see how shaded the panel might be. Panels installed in the height of summer when the shadows are short are particularly susceptible to shade seeming to come out of nowhere as the sun gets lower in the sky as the seasons change.

  1. Is that the best angle?sunny

    Whilst not as important as outright shadows the angle of the panel can have a real effect on light runtime, particularly throughout winter when the sun is very low in the sky. If your solar light features a panel angle that can be easily adjusted then getting up to a 45 degree angle when winter is at its peak will harvest as much sun as possible.

  1. South Facing?compass

A Solar panel is a lot like a satellite dish – it will work most effectively if it’s pointing in the right direction. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so a south facing panel will harvest sunlight from dawn until dusk. Solar lights can still work if they’re not facing due south; it just means they may not work to their full potential.

  1. Water ingresswater


    Despite the obvious design flaw many solar lights can suffer from issues with water ingress. Well designed and manufactured lights shouldn’t suffer from this issue and you can keep an eye out for IP ratings to learn which products offer the best protection.

    Whilst water may not always present a problem, as some lights allow water to drain away without it accessing any of the sensitive electronics, if water has caused the light to stop working there are still some things you can try: Remove any cover(s) present holding any moisture in place. Store the light for a couple of days in a hot water cupboard to dry out the light. Reassemble the light, double-checking the batteries are well seated. Give the light a day or two to charge and then turn the light on at night.

    It’s also worth checking with the manufacturer. A correctly installed light with a warranty should be covered for water ingress, email a photo or two and you should find a replacement is with you before long.

  1. Hungry Squirrels?hung

Sometimes we get customers sending us interesting pictures where the wildlife have got a bit peckish and helped themselves to some nutritious wire from a string of fairy lights for example. The damage can sometimes be repaired with some electrical tape and plenty of patience. If this isn’t possible it’s worth checking with the manufacturer to see whether spares are available to save disposing of the whole product.

As we’re talking about the wire, with any installation where the wire could be subject to tension, for example a string of fairy lights in a tree, always try to leave plenty of slack between branches. Strong winds can put undue pressure on the cable causing damage that can be hard to find and even harder to fix.

  1. On /off switchpower

This is a classic that we had to include; we’ve even had electrical engineers overlook this one. Not all solar lights have an on/off switch but for those that do make sure it’s set to on. If it’s hard to tell whether the switch is on or off, cover the panel to simulate night time and it should be easy to find out.

  1. Passive Infra-Red (PIR) dials?pir

Some more advanced solar security lights have adjustable dials to fine tune motion detection sensitivity, allowing you to stop cats, bird and other wildlife from triggering the light unnecessarily. This is no one size fits all solution here as the height you install the light, the distance of the light from the motion you wish to detect and even whether the motion is moving across the PIR’s field of view all effect how this should be set. Simply put if your light isn’t activating when you need it too, start with maximum sensitivity and work back from there so the light it only activating as required. A bit of trial and error, preferably with someone to help provide the motion if you’re up a ladder, will get the job done quickly.

  1. Lux sensor dial?dials

This is similar to the PIR however in this case the lux sensor determines how dark it has to be before the light will activate. This can be useful if there are other sources of light that could be tricking the lamp into thinking it’s still daylight and therefore stopping the lamp from activating. Sometimes it’s the reverse, the light could be installed somewhere relatively shady with a remote panel in a good sunny spot. In this scenario setting the lamp to activate when the ambient light is much darker could be useful to save the lamp operating when not required.

  1. Battery seating/stripfix-battery

Another easy thing to check is whether the batteries may have either worked their way loose in transit or as a result of installation. If they’re not touching the terminal contacts the batteries won’t be getting a charge by day or being able to provide that charge at night. If you do detect a loose battery remember to give it a day or two to charge in the lamp before operating the light as the battery may have been flat to start with.

  1. Charging behind glasswindow

While you or I can sit behind glass and feel the full effects of the sun it’s often not the case with a solar panel. Double and even triple glazed windows are very common these days and will often render many of the sun’s rays hitting the panel useless. It’s always best to get the panel outside of any glass in a good sunny spot when charging, put simply the fewer obstructions between the sun and your solar panel the more charge will be generated.

  1. Is it plugged in?

Another one you might think we’re making up here but it does happen. If you’ve got a remote solar panel that’s separate from the lamp you need to make sure the solar panel cable is firmly plugged in, with waterproof connectors tightened if present. Sometimes solar lights will have the batteries stored in the solar panel, other times the batteries will be stored in the light head itself but ultimately if the panel can’t charge the batteries or the batteries charge can’t reach the lamp you’re going to be in for a disappointing light show.

  1. To solder or not to solder?solder

As a general rule of thumb it’s always worth contacting the company you bought from to discuss the issue prior to firing up the soldering iron. Often companies can look favourably on a situation where a customer has tried to help avoid a light ending up in landfill for the sake of a loose wire but ultimately it is going to invalidate any warranty – unless of course you’ve had a chat with the company beforehand.

  1. If all else fails there’s always the mainspylons

Plugging a mains charger into a light or removing batteries and mains charging them can seem like a good idea but unless you’re using a compatible mains charger bought with the light things could go downhill. Solar panels output a specific voltage compatible with circuit componentry and battery voltage. A mains charger might fry circuitry or overcharge batteries, ultimately leading to a purchase of a new light. If the batteries are easily removable, and clearly labelled and you have the appropriate charger then you could guarantee performance for a night or two but you might be better off getting a good solar friendly location to charge your lights in the first place. As always if you’re in any doubt follow the instructions or seek clarification from the company you purchased from.

  1. Grubby solar paneldusty

If you live near a busy road or the panel is in a dusty spot you may find your solar panel performance dips off over time as a result of a film of dust and dirt building up on the panel. Giving it a quick wipe over with a damp cloth every so often will keep it working to its full potential.

Thanks for reading this far, we hope you’ve either got your lights up and running or at least have some ideas of how to get them back up and running again. Always remember if your lights are covered by a 12 month warranty, and all good solar lights should be, provided you’ve followed the instructions you’ll have a replacement on its way to you in no time.

Here at the Solarcentre we have designed Solar Lights for more than 10yrs for UK.

We use the latest Solar Panels along with the most up to date LEDs.

Check out our Dual Panel Kodiak Range:

 

 

 

Our garden post lights with power saving mode :

 

 

 

 

…last but not least our USB backup range of garden fairy lights.

How to light up your garden with solar lights

Last week here at the Solar Centre we got a unexpected tweet from a local  designer of contemporary flower pots and coffee tables and his lit up garden:

 

Adam goes on to show how to light up your garden with our solar lights:

The picture really shows off Adams flowers pots using our Solar Spotlights to highlight the features of the hand folded moulded and laid planter along with lighting up the flowerbeds with our Solar Post Lights.

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The Solar lights used in Adams garden are:

Solar spot lights:

Solar post lights

The Flower planters in Adams garden are:

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David Cameron: Told to Support UK Solar

davidcameronOver 150 companies have signed a letter which was sent to Prime Minister David Cameron 7th July 2014. The letter is urging him to support the UK’s thriving solar industry and support UK solar farms and providers. Top dog companies that have signed the letter include: Ikea, The Eden Project, and Finesse Energy Ltd. The letter comes after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) closes their talks about removing the renewable obligation support for solar farms over 5MW. This has been described by some of the leading solar suppliers and experts as a “kick in the teeth”. Without this support the predicted £78 billion per year global solar market (by 2020) becomes an impossible target.

 

Support UK Solar: The Home-Grown Energy Crisis Solution

SolarTradeAssociationPaul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association explained: “Solar is a home-grown solution to Britain’s energy crisis. If the government provides a stable policy environment solar will soon be subsidy free. But the government is now proposing to tilt the playing field against large-scale solar, while not taking sufficient action to unlock commercial rooftop solar – that is unacceptable. We urge DECC not to close the Renewables Obligation to large-scale solar and to rethink proposals on feed-in tariffs to allow a meaningful rooftop market which their own Solar PV Strategy recognises has such tremendous potential.”

 

Government Needs to Wake Up to Renewable Markets

SolarCenturyJeremy Leggett, chair of SolarAid and non-executive chairman of SolarCentury added: “Despite all of the incredible achievements of the UK solar industry since 2010, it’s still very clear that the Whitehall mind-set has yet to catch up. Too much of the wording in the current solar consultation has the whiff of Groundhog Day about it. It’s time that the government woke up to the fact that, with stable support, jobs rich UK solar will be cheaper than onshore wind during the next Parliament, opening up immense opportunities for UK PLC and driving down the costs of delivering the 2020 renewable energy target in the process.

You can read the full letter in the link below.
Source:

SolarPowerPortal: David Cameron Told To Support UK Solar by Over 150 Companies

Is the way we store energy the answer?

windmillEnergy demands across the world are soaring and the price is still climbing for the end users. As the population grows and more technology (electric cars, more appliances for the kitchen, etc.) is added this strain is only going to increase. To meet the rising demand for energy more pylons, cabling, resources, and man-hours will be required, which could add up to £1,000 per year by 2050 to the end users bill. (Quotation from S&C Electric the power services company.)

 

At the moment, in the UK, renewable energy sources are growing at a steady rate but even they cannot match the growing demand required. Renewable sources are also not constant: the days where there is no wind for the windmills and no sun for the solar panels means less energy is created.

 

Which leads to the question: how can this issue be solved? Are we facing an energy crisis?

battery

A suggestion from Anthony Price from the UK’s Electricity Storage Network is that we look at how the UK stores it’s energy. If energy was stored and saved during the lulls between high demand then it could be used as a back-up for when it soars again. This would cover the gaps in the renewable energy sources as the surplus energy created on great days could be saved for the rainy days. This ruling would also mean that the windmills are not turned off once their quota has been reached and instead could be saved for the future.

 

How to Store Energy: Pumped Hydro and Efficient Batteries?

Hydro

There are a few ways to store energy from pumped hydro to powerful and efficient batteries (currently being implemented around the world). The Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab estimates that if we were to invest in better energy storage that it could save the UK £10bn per year by 2050. The estimates from Lux Research suggest the global industry for energy storage could be worth $100bn in the next few years.

 

Andrew Jones at S&C Electric believes the real difference will happen when smart meters installed in homes will know when to turn appliances off. This could lead to a give and taken relationship when the power is needed elsewhere. For example, turning the television off from standby so the power could be used to balance the rest of the grid. Germany is already starting to implement these types of smart appliances.

 

BillThe bigger picture and Your Bill

 

This could then lead to a larger scale operation where small-scale power generation is feasible. Households and businesses already sell energy back into the grid but soon any device able to store energy could also feed it back. The electric car not being used could turn into the battery required to power something else as connectivity grows. The technology isn’t there yet but it’s headed in that exciting direction and could save the UK a fortune. According to S&C Electric the original £1,000 predicted for end users bills by 2050 it could be as little as £100 if smart grids and energy storage were implemented.

 

Bath Salts and Tofu: The Key to Cheaper Solar Energy

TofuA team of researchers at Liverpool University have discovered a way of replacing the toxic element in the manufacturing process of making solar panels. This could mean cheaper solar energy. The key: a material that is found in bath salts or tofu. Their aim: to make solar panel manufacture cheap enough to compete with conventional power generation.

 

The Science Behind The Discovery

Here’s the science part: 90% of all solar cells are made from silicon and at least 7% are made from cadmium telluride. The cadmium telluride cells are thinner than the silicon panels and are more popular due to the cheaper manufacturing costs. However what they save in pennies and pounds is poured back in resources cost. They use the toxic material cadmium chloride which is expensive, a limited resource and very rare, and needs to be disposed of as contaminated waste product in current manufacture. Using the non-toxic alternative, magnesium chloride which is extracted from seawater, could work instead. It is completely safe, creating no chemical/contaminated waste product, and is typically found in bath salts.

 

The Simplified Versionseawater

By using the alternative chemical (magnesium chloride) to make solar panels we could cut out a lot of the waste and also cost! There would be no contaminated waste product which requires special procedures and disposal. This would mean a lower cost of disposing the waste and a lower cost for the planet. As a double whammy the cost of extracting the chemical (magnesium chloride) is also cheaper.

Physicist, Dr Jon Major from the University’s Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, carried out the research. He said: “If renewable energy is going to compete with fossil fuels then the cost has to come down. Great strides have already been made but the findings in this paper have the potential to reduce costs further.”

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The Future: Cheaper Solar Energy

Your future solar panels could be (and possibly should be) manufactured using a chemical that is obtained from seawater. Hopefully, if researchers continue to make these ground-breaking discoveries, the world could generate all of its energy from the sun and for a lot less! I look forward to when our entire range is manufactured with this new panel technology.

 

 

Source:

BBC News: Solar Cells Using Bath Salts

Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy at Liverpool University: Tofu Ingredient Could Revolutionise Solar Panel Manufacture