There are reasons to feel optimistic about the outlook of our environment.  It’s possible you only hear the bad news: global warming, extreme weather, pollution and more.  Yet it’s also possible to find good news, particularly if you’re interested in a specific trend.

Let’s take solar power as an example.  Solar power has been one of the most viable avenues of research into alternative, low cost and low pollution energy sources. Thus far it’s only been useful in a few areas, and not yet ready for widespread mass production of clean energy.Solar paint - another solar power innovation

But every little bit helps, right?  Every alkaline battery not used, every small amount of coal based energy you can save, contributes to the solution.  Humanity is nothing if not resourceful and innovative, and our best minds are well-capable of combining an altruistic, beneficial mission with the forces of scientific advancement and profitable industry.

2014 will be a great year for solar.  Below are just a few of the solar power innovations that are either in the pipeline or already in place and being further perfected.

iWatch

One of the most eagerly anticipated Apple products to be launched soon is the iWatch.  Very little is actually known about its features and capabilities, but there are rumors that a solar-based rechargeable battery for this product is in the works.  Also, its functionality could be focused on personal health and fitness tracking, as well as integration with other Apple personal devices.  The battery innovation may even go beyond solar into kinetic energy or magnetism. Solar power innovations

C-Max Solar Energi

Ford’s model for a solar powered economy vehicle was exhibited at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in January of this year.  Still in its conceptual stages, the design of the car includes a solar paneled roof to charge the vehicle battery, and a specially designed parking canopy to focus and intensify solar energy.

Solar Paint

Paint that will absorb solar energy to help power or heat your home?  It’s out there, and a recent nanotechnology innovation by researchers at the University of Buffalo looks like a promising development to enhance its energy conversion efficiency.  It is known as “plasmonics”, a process that increases the amount of light trapped by the paint via nanoparticles or nanostructures.   This could result in lower costs for consumers and thus, an increased switch to solar energy.

M-KOPA

Here is an amazing solar solution with a humanitarian twist.  M-Kopa, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a kit that offers cheap solar power to low-income communities in Kenya.  The kit functions on a pay-as-you-go system that results in an owned asset, and is much more affordable for people than reliance on a traditional energy grid.  Over 50,000 Kenyan families have adopted it, and its savings and quality of life benefits are evident.Solar still - solar innovations

Solar Globe (Rawlemon)

The jury is still out on the viability of this invention from startup Rawlemon.  Still, its ingenuity and potential can’t be denied.  The Solar Globe is a spherical globe that is capable of concentrating sunlight up to 10,000 times. It would be integrated into buildings to provide them power, it would track the sun as it moves, and it would even be able to harvest lunar power!

Alex is a blogger at The Kyle Law Firm in New Braunfels, Texas. He loves learning about solar energy solutions. 

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