Monday, August 11, 2008

Solar Powered Bike Trail

Madison, Wisconsin has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing new ideas.

Recently, I noticed that solar powered night lights have been installed along some of the bike trails flanking University Avenue. This is a double-green solution in that solar power is used to light an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation - biking and walking.

I suspect these fixtures are a little more expensive than conventional fixtures accounting for the panels, batteries, and possibly some specialized low-voltage lamps. Purveyors of fossil-fuel-based energies always like to point out that solar power is more expensive, and in terms of "installation costs" they're usually right.

But here's the powerful part of the equation: the cost of the energy source (that would be the sun) is zero from here on out. No monthly electric bills. No unanticipated market-based price hikes. Expect some maintenance costs on the hardware over the life of the system, but the energy used is free - forever. When you think "life-cycle costs," solar energy is, even today, a great value.

As costs for solar panels and equipment comes down, petroleum and gas prices keep going up making solar more attractive as time goes by.

Do you have any examples of every-day applications for solar energy?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a comment on solar usage:

Besides commercial and home energy production, rechanging batteries and devices, powering vehicles (as it becomes more viable) and other practical uses, cooking with solar energy [solar ovens] is a great and fun way to bake a cake, muffins, make a soup, etc...

Another great usage is for heating water for showering in the outdoors and in the home.