A Personal Experience from the UK
If you are reading this from hotter climes you might not think that generating solar energy was a viable idea where I live; that being England, known for its rainy and cloudy weather, it does not have enough daylight hours to be worth it. According to the UK's Met Office, the average total annual sunshine in the United Kingdom is 1339.7 hours, which is just under 30% of the maximum possible.
For climactic and political reasons, European governments are investing heavily in alternative forms of energy to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. These alternatives include solar, wind, wave and bio-fuel. In their efforts to give the renewable energy industry a leg up, the UK has launched subsidy programs aimed at making it cheaper for the average person to benefit from the new technologies while the cost of purchase is still high.
A multitude of low power useful USB gadgets
For more than a year, a Bangalore-based startup named Lumos has been making backpacks that come with solar panels. On the inside, there is a battery that stores solar energy. This can then be used to charge various gadgets that come with a USB interface. Backpack is nothing without the gadgets just as money is nothing without useful things to purchase.
Last Saturday they organized a party to showcase a number of USB gadgets that could be used on the move. A common use case is using your smartphone during a long trek. You are not likely to have access to the power grid but you can still click pictures, jot down notes and if there is connectivity, upload these to Facebook. Saturday's event showed that much more is possible with Lumos solar backpack.
Insights from the DOE Solar Decathlon 2013
Barely a week ago, on a warm Saturday morning in Irvine, California, the results of the 10-day competition were finally announced. Among the 20 university teams that took part in this year's offering of the Solar Decathlon organized by the U.S. Department of Energy, only two teams were from across the Atlantic. It turned out that one of the visitors beat the rest of the crowd to take home the winning prize. The other from the Czech Republic came third.
Each team built a solar home, a project that probably took two years from concept to completion. The homes run only on solar power. All homes are connected to a microgrid. Excess power goes into a utility grid and can be used by the wider community. One of the event's key sponsors, Schneider Electric, noted that the homes produced 6,208 kWh in all and consumed only 4,159 kWh.