Everyone knows that solar power is the way of the future. How it used tends to matter a lot too, though. Perhaps the biggest area where energy tends to be required is in transportation. We need fuel for our cars, after all. It’s not just local transportation that needs energy either. Long distance travel by sea or by air uses tremendous amounts of fuel. Even space travel requires a lot of energy. Since the future of humanity relies on us getting into space, finding a solution to this is essential.
This is where solar energy comes in. The Kardashev Scale is a scale used to determine how advanced a civilization is. It is a thought experiment that can help us understand how humanity can progress in the future. There are three levels in this scale. One thing to understand is that according to this scale, an advanced civilization will have converted entirely to renewable energy. Basically, it’s impossible to be advanced if we are still using fuel that we dig out of the ground. There are three levels to the Kardashev scale, and these levels are as follows:
This is a civilization that has managed to harness 100% of the energy of its home planet. Humans have only gotten about 75% of the way towards achieving this level. There are two ways in which a civilization can reach level one. It can either harness fusion energy from nuclear sources. Or it can use all of the solar power that its planet receives. Solar energy is the only truly renewable source of energy that a level 1 civilization could use. Us humans need to use more of it if we want to advance according to this scale.
This is a civilization that is in complete control of all of the energy in its solar system. It would possess the ability to mine and move planets according to its designs. One way in which a civilization could reach level 2 is by building a Dyson sphere. This is a massive space station that is built in the shape of sphere that has the same circumference as Earth’s orbit since this is the place where life can truly thrive. Such civilizations may also be able to move stars thereby turning the Dyson sphere into a moving space station.
This civilization will be so advanced that it would have control over all the energy in its home galaxy. This is the most fantastical scenario, but it is important to note that even these highly advanced civilizations would use solar power. It’s the only energy source that is viable in the entire universe. This shows just how cutting edge solar power can be. It is such a good energy source that it would never become obsolete. Instead, we will just invent newer and better ways to use it.
While we haven’t gotten to level 1 yet, we are well on our way. A lot of modern innovations have started using solar power for transportation. We are going to discuss some of the most amazing new solar transportation methods. These new pieces of technology show the full potential of solar energy. They are also impressive in that they are using this source of energy more efficiently. This is an important part of making it a worthwhile investment. Solar power is currently not efficient enough to be viable. Investing in it makes more sense once it has reached its full efficiency potential.
The Solar Plane
Air travel is the fastest way to get around. Solar powered planes can help make travel easy and sustainable. It can also make it more affordable. Planes need fuel to take off and fly. Fuel prices impact plane ticket prices too. If planes can start getting free energy from the sun, ticket prices would go down. This would help make air travel more affordable for everyone. It will also reduce much of the negative impact air travel currently has on our environment. There are lots of different kinds of solar planes that are being developed.
The biggest solar plane innovation of the past decade is Solar Impulse. The creators of this plane had a pretty big goal in mind. They wanted to tour the whole world in it back in March of 2015. The inventors of this plane were Bertrand Picard and Andre Borschberg. They are pilots from Switzerland who planned a five month long world tour that was completely solar powered. This tour would involve five stages of travel that would last five days each. That’s a total of 25 days and nights of actual travel out of the 150 days they’d be on tour. The remaining time was for maintenance and recharging.
The tour began in the Middle East in March of 2015. The pilots planned to operate their aircraft in shifts to prevent exhaustion. The plane they were using was actually the second prototype they had developed. Thus it was named the Solar Impulse 2. This plane was actually pretty large. Its 72 meter wingspan exceeded that of the Boeing 747. However, in terms of weight the Solar Impulse 2 was far superior. Whereas the Boeing 747 comes up to about over 200 tons, the Solar Impulse 2 came up to only 0.3 tons which is a small fraction of the weight and is more similar to that of a family car rather than a vehicle designed for air travel.
The flight of Solar Impulse 2 was record breaking. It showed the world just how advance solar power had managed to become. However, the first Solar Impulse plane was also revolutionary. It was used during the first nighttime solar flight. This was significant because solar power’s usefulness at night has always been an issue. It also was the plane that was used during the first intercontinental flight. This was also important since it proved that long distance travel using nothing but solar energy was possible.
The plane is powered by 17,000 solar cells. These cells are used to power four motors. Each motor has about 17.5 horsepower. However, the main innovation was the battery. The plane used a 600 kilo lithium battery. The fact that this plane was so light despite its heavy battery is truly amazing. It solved an issue that many people didn’t like about solar power for air travel. This issue was that it would make planes too heavy. It also solved the problem of air travel by night. This made solar planes more feasible for a wider audience.
While the Solar Impulse is the most advanced solar plane to have been invented so far, it is by no means the first. That honor belongs to the Sunrise I which flew at a 100 meter altitude for about 20 minutes back in 1974. While this might not seem like a lot right now, back then it was revolutionary. It was the first time sustained flight had been powered through solar energy. Hence, it opened people’s minds. They could now picture a world where solar flight could be widely available. The Solar Impulse 2 is a continuation of the legacy of the Sunrise I.
The Solar Ship
Air travel is efficient. However, maritime travel is important to. Cargo ships are more useful than planes. Water is more buoyant than air. This means that it can support more weight. Hence, heavier cargo is better off being sent via ship. This is why incorporating solar power into maritime travel is so important. It can make the supply chain more sustainable.
It can also provide luxury travel. Cruise ships are meant for fun, not travel. People should be allowed to have a good time. However, using fossil fuels for this experience can be really dangerous. Using solar power instead can make the whole industry more sustainable. This way, people can enjoy their leisure time without having a negative impact on the environment.
The first ship to actively use solar power is the MS Turanor PlanetSolar. This ship has a capacity of about 40 people. It’s made out of a carbon structure. This is more durable than the metal most ships use. This might be the first ship that is truly incapable of sinking. Hence, the PlanetSolar has gotten two birds with one stone here.
This ship has been traveling the world for a few years now. It is trying to spread awareness about solar power in the maritime industry. Its solar panel array is over half a kilometer long. It also has 6 lithium ion batteries. These batteries are enough to keep the ship running. However, it does have diesel engines too. They are meant for emergencies only, though. The MS Turanor PlanetSolar has not had to use these emergency engines so far. This shows how reliable solar power can be. It just needs to be implemented the right way.
Another use for this ship is in science. The Deep Water Project involves a large group of scientists from around the world. They are trying to analyze and study the Gulf Stream. Doing this in a regular ship is impossible. Emissions from fossil fuel use would spoil their readings. It would also ruin the natural environment of the area. Solar power is the only energy source that can make this project viable. Hence, solar energy is not just useful for its practicality. It also helps further human knowledge. Pursuit of knowledge is what makes mankind so special. We need to use more solar power to encourage it further.
Solar Ski Lifts And Cable Cars
A lot of solar energy innovation comes from Switzerland. The country uses much of this innovation to improve its tourism industry. One example of this is with ski lifts and cable cars. Solar cable cars have actually become quite common in Switzerland. St. Gallen is one place that is using them quite successfully. This is the first place to have solar powered cable cars. You need cable cars to be able to truly appreciate the Alps. Hence, solar power is once again proven to be great for luxury, not just utility.
Much of the Alpine tourism industry is run on solar power. Restaurants and mountain cabins have started using solar energy to power all their needs. It’s easier this way since mountains are difficult to navigate. Providing grid supplies electricity is impossible in such regions. Solar power is a more cost effective solution. It can help make tourism industries more profitable. Other countries should start using solar power here as well. It can help boost their economies. People will have new jobs once tourism industries start picking up. Solar power can change the world in every way. It just needs to become common enough to make a difference.
It’s not just tourism that benefits from solar energy. The tourism industry generates three times the energy it needs. Surplus energy is sent back to the grid. This gives everyone cheap and renewable energy. This is just the energy required for ski lifts in Tenna. One small area creates so much energy for everyone. It just goes to show how good solar energy is at obtaining maximum value from a small space. These ski lifts are quite magnificent. They are over a kilometer and a half in the air. The views you get are truly beautiful. It’s fixed with 82 solar panels. These panels generate 90,000 kWh of energy every year.
Houses in these areas all have solar panels. The heat these panels generate is used to create hot water. A 7000 liter water tank is kept hot at all times with these solar panels. This leads to residents of this area always having access to hot water. Which is useful in cold, mountainous parts of the world. Taking a cold shower here could be fatal, after all. You need hot water to survive. With solar power, you can get this hot water sustainably.
The Solar (And Wind Powered) Motorcycle
Riding on a motorcycle can be a very freeing experience. It feels almost as if you are flying. While solar cars are often talked about, solar motorcycles shouldn’t be ignored. They are a great way to get around. Perfect for single people and tight spaces. One motorcycle that has gained a lot of attention is electric powered. It has a rechargeable battery that can be charged with solar energy. It can also use wind energy. This is a useful backup for when the sun isn’t out. It’s important to be practical while using solar energy after all.
This motorcycle is called StrangeWorld. It was developed in the University of Melbourne in Australia. The inventor of this vehicle is Alister McInnes. He wanted to create a versatile motorcycle. A hybrid charging system is useful for this sort of thing. You can also charge the bike with grid energy. This makes it a truly versatile vehicle. It can be used right now rather than being a future concept. Having so many energy options makes it impossible that you’d run out of gas as it were. More innovations are happening in this field as well.
McInnes wanted his motorcycle to be completely self sufficient. It has a tent like apparatus that can be used to charge it using solar energy. A different compartment of this motorcycle has a small wind turbine that you can use to capture wind energy. This vehicle is currently being optimized. Its prototype has done well but needs some improvements. McInnes has stated that the finished product will be able to travel 500 kilometers after being fully charged. This is pretty significant and convenient. He has not revealed information about charging times though. They will have to be pretty low to make this motorcycle worth it.
It’s interesting to note why this motorcycle was developed. Australia has a hole in its ozone layer. This means that it is at greater risk because of climate change. There is a high probability that Australia would be uninhabitable by the year 2050. This would create a very harsh society. Modern amenities will no longer be available. StrangeWorld is designed to survive in such conditions. It is made to be reliant on nothing. Thus leaving you free to get to where you need to go. While we hopefully won’t have to suffer such conditions, the very thought of them seems to be inspiring change. Humanity tends to be quite resourceful when its survival is at stake.
You don’t have to wait for the end of the world to use this bike, though. There are plenty of present day applications. Adventurous people often want to travel into uncharted territory. This can be difficult if you are on foot. The distances you need to travel are quite great. You won’t be able to get very far if you’re walking. A motorcycle would be perfect here. It’s not as bulky as a car. Hence, you would be able to travel lightly. It’s also easier to maneuver than a car. Hence, you can get into rougher areas without having to worry so much.
The only problem is that uncharted areas don’t have gas stations. You might run out of gas before you can get to the truly exciting parts of the world. With this motorcycle, this will no longer be an issue. You can keep exploring and powering your motorcycle with solar or wind energy. This is a truly freeing though. People that ride motorcycles would be particularly interested in this kind of lifestyle. They like the thought of total freedom after all.
This is what you all have been waiting for. It won’t be long before solar cars are the global standard. In fact, people might even laugh at gasoline users in a couple of decades. There are a lot of companies creating solar cars. Their innovations are really something. Electric cars are already available. But they use grid electricity. While they are a step in the right direction, they won’t be good enough until they use renewable energy. Solar cars will be the culmination of that process. They will also be a solid step we would take towards becoming a Level 1 Civilization on the Kardashev Scale.
One example of a purely solar powered car is the Sono Sion. It’s quite pricey at 16,000 euros. The battery is extra, costing about 4,000 Euro. In fact, just reserving the car costs 500 Euro right now. That said, this car is quite amazing. It has enough space for five people. It’s minivan design is also interesting. This car has a whopping 330 solar panels. That’s a lot when you notice how small it is. You can travel about 250 kilometers after fully charging its battery. This is a decent distance by any measure.
If you think the Sono Sion is expensive, wait until you hear about the Lightyear One. This car can operate independently in areas that get enough sunlight. You wouldn’t have to stop at a charging station at all. It can travel up to 800 kilometers on a fully charged battery. This is enough to go pretty much anywhere. However, it costs just shy of 120,000 Euro. While the Sono Sions is a slightly pricey car, the Lightyear One is a full on premium luxury vehicle. The price reflects this. Is it worth it? Well, that depends on you. Regardless of that, though, the car does remain an impressive innovation.
The Power of One is also a notable solar car. It had travelled 15,000 kilometers powered by nothing else but sunlight way back in 2008. It has about as many solar panels as the Sono Sion. It can travel about 200 kilometers on a fully charged battery. However, it can get to about 500 kilometers if there is enough sunlight. The most notable aspect of this car is its speed and acceleration. It’s top speed is about 120 km/h, and it takes just 6 seconds for it to reach 85 km/h.
Air travel is useful but it’s also really bad for the environment. It creates a lot of harmful CO2 emissions that wreak havoc on the natural environment of our planet. This has become such a huge problem that Sweden actually has a term for it. This term roughly translates to “shameful flying”. They also pride themselves on how often they use trains. This is because trains are much more environmentally friendly. If you were to use solar powered trains, this benefit would be increased even further.
You might think that trains are too big to run on solar power. However, there are plenty of examples of solar trains. These trains already run in many cities in the world. They are not exactly widespread yet. But they do have a lot of potential. A little more investment in them can make a lot of difference. It can introduce people to the idea of solar powered trains. These trains can make long distance travel damage free for the environment. It’s also great when you consider the views you would get. Planes only show you clouds. Trains show you the natural beauty of your native landscape.
The first ever solar train was introduced in Australia. It’s interesting to see how much solar innovation comes from this country. For them, climate change is a true existential threat. Hence, they work on new technology to help them survive in the future. One example of such technology is the Byron Bay Solar Train. This train only runs about 3 kilometers. But this is impressive when you consider that it’s completely solar powered. The train was created by the Byron Bay Railroad Company. This is a nonprofit organization that’s working on renewable energy powered trains.
You might be thinking that 3 kilometers is useless. However, it’s actually quite beneficial. Cities are very densely packed. Traveling 3 kilometers can become a nightmare in such locales. A solar powered train can make this trip easier. It can also do this without harming the environment. The fact that a train that can be used in cities and only needs solar power even exists is incredible. It makes it clear that such trains will become enormously common in the near future. They will also be able to travel further and faster. All with the use of the best source of energy in the world.
India is a global leader when it comes to solar power. The Indian Railways Organization for Alternative Fuel is trying to develop solar powered trains. Trains are an important part of Indian culture. Several packed trains connect rural and urban communities. India’s massive population relies on trains to get to work and to visit relatives in their home village. These trains use a lot of fossil fuels. Switching to solar power for these trains will be a major shift. It can change the course of India’s future.
India already has 250 solar powered trains. These are purely solar powered. They don’t stop for grid energy at any point. Instead they use solar panel arrays that are placed on their roofs. The innovation doesn’t just stop there, either. India is aware that these panels are bulky. They can slow the trains down and stop them from maneuvering. This is why the country is developing solar farms. They would be used to power trains. Cheaper energy means cheaper transportation. This can help to make the whole world more interconnected. One can argue that it would lead to a cultural revolution. That’s just what happens when new cultures get easier access to one another.
Europe won’t be left behind in the solar revolution. Belgium is leading the charge in that continent. They introduced solar trains in 2011. England is also a leader in this field. London in particular has a serious smog problem. This is caused by the number of cars on the road. England has fixed London’s smog problem over the years. However, it’s still pretty bad. This is why they initiated the Riding Sunbeams project. This project is meant to spread awareness about solar trains. The ultimate goal of the project is to switch to solar trains entirely.
This project is trying to build solar farms. It is also attempting to reduce reliance on public subsidies. Trains that use solar power don’t need subsidies. They get their energy from the sky around them. The project is a collaboration between Community Energy South, England’s railway operator Network Rail as well as 10:10 which is an independent organization that started the whole project.
Solar power is a very broad concept. We need to see its practical applications to truly understand how amazing it can be. From solar trains in India to solar ski lifts in Switzerland, the solar revolution is truly a global phenomenon. It’s also creating lots of business opportunities. Solar cars are very highly priced. Yet people are still buying them. This shows that there is a high demand for such vehicles. In short, when we get to Level 1 on the Kardashev Scale, everyone will have a lot more freedom and they will be way more comfortable too.