Portable, Solar-Powered Shelters Offer Comfort to Refugees

refugee sheltersJordanian-Canadian architect Abeer Seikaly has created portable, solar-powered shelters for refugees based on traditional Bedouin design principles. The portable shelters are constructed with a collapsible woven structural fabric and contain water and solar energy installations to provide hygiene and electricity to people who have been forced to leave their homes due to political conflict or natural disasters.

The temporary shelters have a sturdy dome-like shape and a tessellating pattern on the outside that is caused by the tent’s unique fabric. This structure makes it possible to collapse the tent vertically, making it easy to transport and set up. The shapes on the exterior can be opened to function as windows and provide ventilation.

The exterior fabric of the temporary structures can harvest solar radiation and convert it into electricity, which can be used for lighting, heating, and cooling. The shelters also include a thermosiphoning and drainage system that draws water into spherical storage tanks at the top of the temporary shelters. The location of the tanks allows the shelters’ occupants to shower.

Seikaly believes the portable structures can help refugees rebuild their lives after being displaced from their homes. She is concerned that the refugee crisis may worsen in the future due to political conflicts and climate change. She believes her temporary structures can provide the familiar comforts of a home in a new location and provide families with privacy, while at the same time helping people to connect with each other.

EV Charging Stations Opening Across the U.S.

EV Charging Station

As gas prices rise, more people are starting to purchase electric vehicles. The demand for EV charging stations has increased and some companies are taking advantage of that need. The number of EV charging stations in the U.S. are going up and some stores are opening them in their parking lots.

California has the most EV charging stations of any U.S. state with 1,276 of them. With 200 EV charging stations added in April alone across the states, there are now a total of 5,865 public stations. You might say, “Where are all these charging stations?” Well, municipalities and power companies are adding some here and there. You will most likely see these as carports with the ability to charge electric vehicles. Many times they are solar powered Solar Carportcarports that generate their own power for charging vehicles and energy for the town.

However, most of the charging stations come from private companies who are installing them at their businesses. Major corporations see the need for EV charging stations as an opportunity to lure more consumers to their stores. Walgreens, for instance, is the most prolific public charging station installer in the country with 364 units. They are far ahead of the second place company, Kohl’s, who have 57 charging stations. More and more companies are getting into the EV charging station game, with Kroger announcing that they will install around 225 stations along the west coast.

It makes sense that companies would do this because by providing low-cost or free electricity for shoppers with EVs is a very tempting incentive. The popularity of EVs has increased tremendously over the past 5 years, so if you have not seen any charging stations in your town yet, you should soon!

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Portable Canopy Resembling Flower Creates Solar Power

Lotus Canopy

A new portable solar power canopy called the Lotus Mobile is looking to change the solar power market. Solar innovator and creator of this product, Joseph Hui, modeled his design after his love for flowers. Hui’s design allows for the canopy to fold up to protect itself from severe weather.

The Lotus Mobile portable canopy is designed to resemble a Lotus flower. It is lightweight and pole mounted, with a solar canopy composed of 18 petal-like solar modules. The unusual design is delicate-looking but tough enough for its intended use and hopes to chip away at some of the “soft costs” that have been keeping solar power out of reach for many people.

Lotus Flower Inspiration

The Lotus flower is Hui’s inspiration for the design and overall concept of the Lotus Mobile. He is the President and CEO of the company behind the solar powered product, Monarch Power (He is also a big fan of butterflies). Here is a quote from Hui explaining how the Lotus Lotus Mobileflower inspired him;

“Best of all, you know that you are learning from nature to protect nature, just like the Lotus plant that takes sunlight and water and turns that into fuel, without creating a carbon footprint. The only footprint is a nice architectural shade that your neighbors would find attractive.”

Avoiding “Soft Costs”

One of the major benefits of the Lotus Mobile is that it can avoid many of the “soft costs” of solar power. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about half the cost of a typical solar array consist of installation and grid connection, as well as regulatory obstacles including zoning, permitting and inspections. Because the Lotus Mobil can be a non-permanent or semi-permanent shade canopy, it is possible that it could avoid many of the “soft costs”.

Creating a Low-Cost Solar Power Canopy

There are a few other design elements of the canopy that contribute to low cost solar power. The Lotus Mobile is designed to be an off-grid device with a lightweight design to cut down on the installation costs. Plastic and aluminum parts are the main factors in the reduced weight. They are not as strong as steel frames or glass-based solar panels when it comes to withstanding extreme weather, but that it why the Lotus Mobile easily folds up like a flower. The canopy uses solar tracking and highly efficient solar cells to convert sunlight into both electricity and hot water. Hui anticipates an installed cost of $1.50 per watt, which is better than the conventional $4.00, but falls short of Energy Department’s goal of $1.00 per watt.

The anticipated cost for an installed Lotus Mobile is about $9,000. At that price the payback period should be relatively short, especially in warmer areas where AC is used often. The unique design, lower “soft costs”, and lower price per watt should make the Lotus Mobile a successful solar power product.

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Solar Powered Tarps for Electric Vehicles

Solar Powered Tarp
With gas prices rising, the popularity of electric vehicles is also increasing. Many people are turning to hybrids and EVs to help alleviate some of the financial burden caused by high gas prices. Many car companies are developing hybrids and EVs to help create a supply for the demand. As more and more people buy EVs, more innovative accessories for them are also coming out.

Many towns and businesses are installing solar carports to provide a fueling station for electric vehicles. They use the sun to create electricity that can be used to charge EVs and also provide overhead protection from the elements. One industrial engineer has created a solar powered car cover that can charge electric vehicles.

Named the V-Tent, this innovative tarp will not only protect your vehicles from being damaged by the elements, it will charge your car. Hakan Gursu is the mind behind the V-Tent, and it is designed to charge any electrical vehicle that is parked underneath it. Hakan hopes to extend the life of EVs and to build up the electric charging infrastructure, as well as re-imagine urban parking meters.

The way the V-Tent works is, after you park your electric vehicle and pay, the solar powered cover will unwrap itself over your vehicle. You will be able to use a credit card for payment, and drivers will be able to check the status of the charge through a smartphone app.

Digital depictions of the V-Tent have already been created. They do not take up a lot of space, seem easy to use, and provide both energy and protection for your vehicle. They solar-powered cover provides energy for both your vehicle and for nearby street lights that will make the charging stations more visible at night. With the popularity of EVs and solar power on the rise, V-Tents may just be a reality in the near future.

You can see a video of the V-Tent by clicking on this link: YouTube.

 

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