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!


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:


5 solar power tips for camping

With the end of the camping season (for those not crazy enough to camp in the snow) coming to an end now is a great time to plan next year’s trips and camping sessions. Here at The Solar Centre we’re helping you on your way with 5 solar power tips for camping:

1, Avoid tripping over the guy-lines with pathway lights around the tent.

I do a lot of camping and my vision in the dark is ridiculously poor, especially at some of the camp-sites that don’t have lamps or pathways for that matter. If I had a pound for every guy-line I’ve tripped over and woken somebody up in the middle of the night I’d be a millionaire by now. There is one easy solution and the craze is spreading quickly: use solar pathway lights or LED lights to mark the guy-lines. You would be surprised at how many people do this now. It’s simple, effective, and will mark your tent out from the rest if you like going to big festivals and have trouble finding it again. Most pathway lights or LED lights also pack down to be really small and won’t take up a lot of space in your kit bag.


2, Jazz up your tent and camp with fairy lights. Bring the bling to the party!

Who says camping has to be dull and boring with plain canvas tents or tents that are run-of-the-mill standard? Jazz it up with some solar powered fairy lights. Your tent and camp will look fantastic. (It’s also a good excuse for a party and a few drinks around the fire!) Everybody will want to be at your party. Also, why stop at just the tent. When you aren’t camping use the fairy lights in your own garden to highlight a tree, statue, or decorate an outdoor cinema or fire pit.


3, Need your phone for emergencies? Make sure you take a solar charger with you.

If you are somebody who cannot leave the grid for various reasons (i.e. you run a business and have to take every call, or have a few old friends who need to keep in contact, or children who may need to get hold of you, etc.) then be sure to take a solar power charger for your phone along on the camping trip – or any trip for that matter! Let’s say you are going to deepest, darkest, Peru and they don’t have power. The solar power charger can keep you going and going and going! Most solar power chargers also do more than just phones: batteries, camera’s, iPods and iPads, notebooks, etc.


4, Take a solar power camping/torch light with you.

This sounds daft but a torch is usually the first thing I forget when packing to go camping. Even worse, you’ve remembered to pack the torch but once you arrive you find out the batteries have expired. There are plenty of options on the market from wind-up to solar powered torches. The newest is one that combines both wind-up and solar for the days spent in deepest, darkest, Peru! Everybody loves a good gadget.


5, Use solar power to cook your food.

Everybody loves a good barbecue but have you considered cooking your food using solar energy? Technology is improving every day and at rates which are in leaps and bounds. There is now a metallic tube which can boil water or cook meals using directed heat from the sun. There are also various other solar cooking methods – all of which surpass the fond Scout days of covering a cardboard box in aluminium and waiting for the food to cook. It is so simple and really effective.



Bristol’s Solar Scheme to Become UK’s Solar Capital by 2015

Bristol Bristol £47m Solar Scheme

The Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, has cleared the first stage of the scheme to install £47m worth of solar rooftop panels over the next four years. The plan is to install the solar panels on council owned houses and public buildings as part of a bid to become European Green Capital in 2015. Bristol is also hoping to become the UK’s “Solar Capital” by installing 1GW of solar power by 2020.

Minister of State Gregory BarkerMinister of State: Gregory Barker’s Solar Energy UK Speech

This comes after the announcement from Minister of State Gregory Barker’s speech to the Solar Energy UK conference, which set out the vision for growth of UK solar PV. Gregory Barker quoted “I think we can go faster and further. I am on record as having a personal ambition to see 20GW [in the UK] deployed by 2020. And I continue to believe that is possible.”


The Changes Needed

However, he also went on to explain that several things needed to change for this to become a reality:

  • The Industry needs to drive down costs even quicker.
  • Solar companies need to innovate faster.
  • The energy sector needs to push for efficiency through the whole supply chain.
  • Solar PV developers need work closer with local communities and avoid alienating them.
  • And the energy and solar industry needs to look at export markets.


Bristol Harbour

The Scheme Details

Bristol City Council confirmed yesterday that it has already started to seek contractors for the first £6m phase of the solar scheme. The formal tender process is expected to begin in January 2014 and start work in June. The programme could also cover more properties, depending on the success of the project and tenants, and could use some fields in the region to create larger solar panel arrays. The council said it plans to borrow money to pay for the phase, which will then be repaid by the feed-in tariff payments. The scheme could save occupiers £130-£260 a year and reduce council costs.

George Ferguson’s thoughts regarding the plans: “I really welcome this proposal. It is an important step forward which supports our environmental role, a leading one in Europe.”



Business Green: Bristol Shines with £47m Solar Scheme Solar Energy UK Roadmap Launch

5 Misconceptions About Solar Power

Converting to solar power doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
Converting to solar power doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

1. Solar Power is Expensive.

This could not be any further from the truth and myth-busting it is easy. The price of solar panels is falling, dramatically, as the demand and amount of importers is increasing. The statistics from the Department of Energy & Climate Change also reported that 50% of all installed solar panels across the UK are residential. If other people are doing it, surely it cannot be that expensive? You also get money back via the Feed-in-Tariff issued by the government for each unit of energy you create. That’s right: you get paid!

You don’t have to convert your whole house to benefit either. If you want garden lights, security lights, or gadgets, a lot of these can now be powered by solar energy. In the long run, even if you only change a few things to solar power, you will save money on your bills each month. It all adds up.


2. Solar Power Doesn’t Work at Night.Starry Night Sky

All solar powered items come with batteries. Why? Because the sun isn’t around at night. The solar panel charges to the batteries which then power the light or item at night. Eventually the batteries will need replacing but usually they’ll last a very long time (saving you more money!)



Installed Solar Security Light3. Installing Solar Powered Lights is Expensive.

You don’t need to hire an electrician to install solar lights or solar kits. You can do it yourself and usually in under an hour; depending on the light you choose. You also don’t need to tap into your mains or drill holes through your house to get the mains wiring outside because solar lights are usually self-contained units with only one wire to the panel. Easy peasy.

You might prefer to hire somebody if you’re like me and worry about falling off a ladder but that choice is yours. The rules (Part P of the planning regulations) include full details about this rule.

Another point to consider if your solar light is an LED light: the bulbs won’t need replacing as often because they last that much longer. (Some quote up to 50,000 hours light-time.)


4. Solar Power isn’t Reliable.Reliable Street

This may have been the case when solar power first hit the markets but technology has since improved. Solar panels are better, the batteries can hold more and be changed less often, and the lights are now using the most up-to-date LED technology.



Yes, I had a Pet Rock as a teenager. I even put boggle eyes on it.
Yes, I had a Pet Rock as a teenager. I even put boggle eyes on it.

5. Solar Power Won’t Last.

This one is an opinion rather than fact based. However, when you look at the statistics, it is hard to believe that this will be a fad that will die out like all of the rest. Governments all around the globe are starting to spend a lot more on renewable energy as we race towards the future. Scientists are exploring new ways that solar power can help us and how far it can go. More importantly: we are starting to think about a greener future as the Eco-movement grows!

Unlike some other fads that I’ve seen in my time!

Also, the sort of solar panels we use degrade less than 1% per year. This means that in 20 years you should still have at least 80% of the performance you had in the first instance.




Planning Portal: Electrical: Part P

Statistics on Increased Demand for Solar Power

The Analysis on The Department for Energy & Climate Change DUKES 2013 Report

Walkie Talkie Skyscraper in London Melts Jaguar Car

Okay, so we may be exaggerating here! But this did actually happen … Witness the power of the sun! Go Solar Power!

The Walkie Talkie

The new 37-storey London skyscraper (aka “Walkie Talkie” because of its shape) has been reflecting sunlight which has melted parts of a Jaguar car parked on a nearby street: Eastcheap on Thursday afternoon. It only took two hours to melt parts of his car including the wing mirror and badge. The total cost of damage £946 in repairs.

The Walkie Talkie Skyscraper in London
The Walkie Talkie Skyscraper in London

The Owner of The Jaguar

Mr Lindsay (the owner of the car) said he “Could not believe” the damage. “You can’t believe something like this would happen. They’ve got to do something about it. It could be dangerous. Imagine if the sun reflected on the wrong part of the body?”

Proof of Melted Jaguar
Proof of Melted Jaguar

The Developers

The developers have apologised and paid for repairs. They left the following note on this windscreen: “Your car’s bucked; could you give us a call?”

In a joint statement, developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf said “We are aware of concerns regarding the light reflecting from 20 Fenchurch Street and are looking into the matter. As a precautionary measure, the City of London has agreed to suspend three parking bays in the area which may be affected while we investigate the situation further.


‘Walkie-Talkie’ Skyscraper Melts Jaguar Car Parts

Solar Power In The UK Passes The 1GW Milestone

Solar Trophy



The UK has reached the grand milestone of 1 gigawatt (1GW) in demand for solar PV panels. Using year-to-date data, and despite the 46% decline in the second quarter, the solar power in the UK is currently on trend to smash the current record.



Solar PV Demand Per Quarter 2013 in MW
Chart showing solar PV demand per quarter in 2013 in megawatts

Why The Sudden Drop?

Why the 46% decline? There’s a bunch of reasons but lets briefly touch on a couple:

  • The cut in the Renewable Obligation Certificate incentives on 1st April 2013. This is less impacting for the end users and more about the companies who provide power. It led to less ground-mounted solar PV panels.
  • The European Commission increased the import tariff on China made solar PV panels. This meant it was more expensive to import solar PV panels.

On the whole, we’re not helping ourselves! But what’s more interesting is that it’s the little people who count more.

In The UK Currently:

Cumulative solar PV panels installed in the UK (at the end of June 2013) currently stands at 2.71 gigawatts. The largest percentage being residential installed panels! It’s the Joe Blogg’s of the UK with solar PV panels on the roof, shed, in the garden, anywhere possible.

Installed Location of Cumulative Solar PV Panels in the UK
Installed Location of Cumulative Solar PV Panels in the UK

In the first half of 2013 alone the UK has installed a whooping 106 solar PV panel farms. More than half of the new solar farms have an installed capacity of over 5 megawatts with 8% boasting over 10 megawatts.


Annual Demand for Solar Power in UK Passes 1GW Milestone
UK Solar Power PV Demand in Quarter 2 Declines