In the face of climate change, efforts to reduce our personal impact through reducing emissions and being more energy efficient are imperative. The Schott Social Barometer survey in 2010 found that 94% of Americans believe that solar energy should be encouraged and that half were intending to use it in their homes or workplaces in the coming year.
Fashion is finally catching up with science in this area, and solar technology is experiencing a style boom. From clothes, to home furnishings to high tech low-impact gadgets, going solar has never been easier or (pardon the pun) hotter!
Photovoltaic technology is now being incorporated into clothes with a practical and stylish function. In 2007, design house Zegna created the Solar JKT, a cold weather garment with a solar panel integrated into the collar that powers a mobile recharge connection in the pocket. The collar is removable for cleaning. In 2009, Zegna came out with a recycled plastic solar jacket, with a panel on the sleeve.
Scottevest, a leader in techo-jackets, make a range of outwear to which you can fit their Solar Charger, a solar panel that attaches to the back of their outerwear range for recharging mobile devices. The jackets have a wide solar panel in the back which will charge your USB compatible cell phone in 3 hours. Argentinian company IndarraTDX were the first to launch this idea in 2008 with their FV Module Jacket, which is still in production.
A solar dress using ultrathin pV film from Cornell University was modeled early this year, but it is not yet in production. Another solar powered dress has a purely fashionable function, using cells to power by day a light show by night. In 2009, scientists at Riso National Laboratory created a new method of printing solar cells onto fabric and in 2010 Caltech researchers found a way to make solar cells from flexible microfiber that is set to increase the uptake of solar tech in the clothing industry.
The solar cap has been around for a few years and although you won’t be making a fashion statement with it, the cap can provide light or power a fan, ideal for bush-walking and camping. Believe it or not, solar technology is also making its way into jewelry! Last year, Swedish student designer Mae Yokoyama created a sophisticated solar panel necklace made from mini solar panels and embellished with tiny LED bulbs. The panels harvest solar energy and use it to power the LED lights, making them look like a string of luminous pearls.
There is no shortage of solar gadgets to geek up your life with. You can readily get solar rechargers to plug your MP3 player into, but built-in models are in short supply. This desktop clock has solar panel and will charge your devices, while this speaker set promises to charge and amplify your player simultaneously You can even buy a necklace model solar mp3 player. In 2010, Lifeline Energy distributed this solar powered radio to people in need in sub-Saharan Africa. MSI came up with a solar MP3 player in 2006 that seems to have not taken off.
Designers are making some stylish gear including the Sony Eclipse solar rechargeable MP3 player (in concept only) or this stylish desktop model from Khemu aptly named the Sunflower. The solar purse from Solar Jo employs small panels on the outside and USB cables inside to charge your mobile devices anywhere. There is also a solar laptop bag by Voltaic, that allows you to use alternative solar energy to power your work on the move.
Anyone who carries a smart phone, MP3 player or portable gaming console (who doesn’t?) knows that the worse possible thing you can face is a dying battery when you’re on the go and need your gadget the most. In 2008, designers Hyun-Joong Kim and Kwang-Seok Jeong developed the Solar-Energy Converting Sunglasses, which solve this problem. The sunglasses collect energy through solar panels and can connect to your iPod, smart phone via a power jack in the back of the frame. These haven’t hit the market yet, but we hope they do!
New alternative uses for solar energy are being developed by creative minds everyday. These are just a few of the many ingenious ways designers are finding ways to incorporate renewable energy into our lives.