This solar panel design turns waste into watts
As cities grow and look for new designs to adapt infrastructure to the impacts of climate change, one important step will be making renewable energy sources more versatile and accessible for households.
Hungarian tech company is taking small steps with recycled plastic waste to make solar panels built into pavements to power buildings and charge electronic devices in public places.
The solar cells are protected with hardened glass tiles, which allow the pavements to carry the weight of vehicles, and the secret lies in the small-scale approach, said Imre Sziszak, co-founder of Budapest-based Platio.
“There are no complicated bits in this panel. We use recycled plastic which provides a very strong and durable surface,” Sziszak said while laying down a pavement at a public swimming pool in the north-west town of Komarom on the Slovak border where the solar panels will provide green energy for public lighting and a USB-charging station.
“We wanted to make a really simple product that can provide renewable energy for households,” Sziszak added.
One solar panel unit provides about 20 Watts of energy and Platio says it is the only company which uses recycled plastic waste for this purpose.
The solar cells are integrated into the pavement by using recycled plastic materials, with about two kilograms needed for each panel, and Platio pavements can be installed where using conventional solar technology is not possible.
“There are many cases when the users cannot put it on the roof, either because the bad position of the house, or because of the system or the roof structure, and in these cases ours is a very good alternative,” Sziszak said.
For a typical family house, a 20 square-meter pavement provides sufficient green energy and Platio’s largest project was an 80 square-meter pavement in Kazakhstan to power the air conditioning of a shopping mall.
Although the Platio solar pavement is currently more expensive than traditional roof-mounted panels, Sziszak believes the simplicity of the product makes it more versatile.
“For some reason, all our competitors and the other developers are somehow hooked on the idea of making roads…that signal where animals come from, or where the next turn is,” he said.
“We wanted to make a really simple product that can provide renewable energy for households.”
The ideas presented in this article aim to inspire adaptation action – they are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Global Center on Adaptation.
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