With spring almost upon us, we thought it was time we started talking about solar panels. We’ve put together a list of some of the largest and most ambitious solar energy projects from around the world.
Blackfriar’s Bridge, London
Blackfriar’s Bridge, which makes up part of Blackfriar’s train station, has been covered with 4,400 photovoltaic solar panels and is said to be the largest solar bridge in the world. It is estimated that the installation will generate 900,000 kWh of electricity each year — enough to save 500 tonnes of CO2. Network Rail expect the panels to provide 50% of the train stations power.
The bridge was originally built in the thirteenth century, and used water wheels to power pumps and mills. It was eventually re-purposed as a train station and was revamped in 2012 as part of a £6.5bn programme to increase capacity on the Thameslink route.
Photovoltaic sun shade, Duhai
When Dubai was chosen as the host for the 2020 World Expo, they brought in architecture firm HOK to design this huge photovoltaic sun shade. The structure will generate electricity during the day and act as a giant light show at night.
The sun shade will sit above three main pavilions, with the layout inspired by traditional Arabic marketplaces. The designers “planned the Expo site and infrastructure to create a new sustainable benchmark for events in the Middle East.”
The world’s largest solar-thermal power station
This is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California, the biggest solar power station of its kind in the world. Rather than converting sunlight directly into energy (which is what photovoltaic panels do), this type of power station uses thousands of mirrors to focus sunlight towards a central tower. The intense heat turns water into steam, which in turn drives turbines and generates electricity.
Solar thermal power plants are nothing new — but what sets this one aside is its sheer size. When operating at full capacity it can produce 392 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power 140,000 homes whilst saving 500,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
UK’s first solar powered photo booth
The UK’s first fully solar powered photo booth is open for business in St Austell — the town that aspires to be the green capital of Cornwall.
The booth uses a single photovoltaic solar panel that is capable of producing up to 500MW in the right conditions. In order to keep the power running continually, it also houses a battery to store energy when the sun isn’t out and pressure sensors that only activate the booth when a customer steps inside.
As you can see from the picture above, it looks and functions just like any other photo booth you would see in a shopping centre, bus station or supermarket. The only difference being that it requires no external power supply.
Solar energy spheres by Rawlemon
German architect Andre Broessel has taken it upon himself to redesign the humble photovoltaic solar panel, and has created these ‘spherical solar energy generators’. They work by concentrating large amounts of sunlight onto a small area, meaning that they take up a lot less space than traditional solar panels. They also track the movement of the sun throughout the day, increasing their efficiency.
Rawlemon, the company behind them, plan to sell them in a range of sizes including these desktop-sized phone chargers.