Solar power 2
Singapore, 9th July 2010
Today I read about a historic flight of the first fully solar powered airplane. The breakthrough event was not so much the fact that the plane, a glider type airplane design with a (solar) wing span of no less then 64m, managed to fly, but that it managed to fly 26 hours continuously making it the first flight ever to fly on solar power through the night! In other words it had managed to store enough energy during the daytime to maintain its engine power needs throughout the night! The information list the plane to have about 12,000 solar cells and batteries weighing 400kg, about ¼ of the plane’s total weight. The electric engines draw about 6KW, which apparently is about the same that the Wright brothers used when they made their first powered flight early last century.
It has not much to do with lighting but it highlights the progress being made in solar technology which is of course of great interest to us. I remember Philips being involved in solar power three decades ago when I had just joined the company. The solar collectors at the time were big and bulky, with a relative short life time and an extremely long pay-back period, besides being very expensive. The crucial part has always been the battery storage technology and capacity. But over the years all that has improved tremendously and we are gradually reaching stage were renewable solar energy is becoming a financially viable option. Certainly for those who want to contribute to the green movement.
The main trend that interests me as a lighting designer is the ever decreasing size and increasing performance of the PV (Photo Voltaics) which means first and foremost that we need less space to incorporate them in our designs (read building envelopes), or in other words that we can increase the energy capacity so we can power more lights. This coupled with the ever increasing performance and efficiency in the LED lighting technology and you can see the excitement and potential for the future of lighting! As I said before, “zero” energy lighting installations for common lighting applications are not far away if not already here….