Once you have established a clean energy supply, what is next? How about using this clean energy to provide you with everyday items, such as running water or air-conditioning? This is the vision of some companies, known as energy providers, and it’s a vision that is starting to become a reality.
For years, the aerospace industry has been powered by jet engines, which are highly efficient but very polluting. Now that jet engines are being replaced by more sustainable energy sources, the industry is looking for alternative ways to power their aircraft. Solar energy is one of the most sustainable sources of energy and it is already being used to power multiple industries, including the aerospace community.
Let’s examine the growing role that solar energy plays in the aerospace industry and how it is being used.
Solar Farm Offers Fresh Air For Aviation
The world’s first commercial solar farm to power an entire industry has been constructed in New York. Dubbed the Aviation Alternative Energy Park, the 600-acre installation will provide electricity to 60 corporate aviation companies, including American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines.
Located in Teterboro, New Jersey, the electricity generated by the solar farm will be exported to the New York grid, offering a fresh boost to the region’s power supply. The facility is the culmination of a project that started back in 2016 when a group of private citizens established the Aviation Alternative Energy Community. The group then turned to solar energy as the likely future of aviation, believing that the industry would shift towards more sustainable and cheaper alternatives.
Aviation has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the electric vehicle market over the past few years. In 2019, industry experts forecast that the demand for commercial aircraft will triple in the next 20 years. To meet this demand, the aerospace industry will need all the help it can get from alternative energy sources. The Teterboro site will offer just that.
Beating The Heat: Using Solar Energy To Cool Aerospace
While the aerospace industry has been a leading adopter of alternative energies, it has also been highly-trusted in its ability to withstand hot temperatures. After all, the industry was built upon the pillars of engineering and building airworthy planes. But as temperatures climb, so does the demand for air conditioning. And since electricity is relatively expensive, there is a drive to find more sustainable ways to cool down the workplace.
Solar energy is a cheap and clean source of energy and it’s been embraced by the aerospace industry, specifically for its ability to beat the heat. As a result, some companies are looking into using solar energy to cool their aircraft. There is a company, for example, that builds solar-powered air-conditioning units for planes. Known as the Solaire air-conditioning system, the product will provide relief to flyers in the middle of a heatwave. The device is installed on the exterior of the plane and it draws energy from photovoltaic solar panels that track the sun’s movement.
When the Solaire system is up and running, it will provide the equivalent of a 7kW air-conditioning system for a fraction of the cost of a traditional system. And since it does not have any moving parts, it is far more reliable and will require far less maintenance. The device also eliminates the need for fossil fuels, which are becoming more scarce around the world. With these benefits and the desire to reduce their carbon footprint, some airliners will choose to install the Solaire system on their craft. And when they do, they will be providing better air quality and lessening their impact on the environment.
Lighting has always been a challenge in the aviation industry and the desire to cut down on costly electricity has only made things more interesting. Well, now there is a way to generate your own light and it doesn’t require you to run a marathon in the dark. With the right solar lighting solution, you can power your aircraft’s cabin lights and other small appliances, such as water heaters and dehumidifiers. This is all made possible by small modular systems that are completely independent of the jet engine. The only connection these systems have with the plane is via a power cable.
A company called Picsum builds solar-powered lighting solutions and it offers an entire range of products, from small flashlights and headlamps to lanterns and even spotlight lighting. With these products, you will never need to run down a jet engine’s reserves for light and air-conditioning again. Not that there’s anything wrong with them; quite the opposite, in fact.
The beauty of these products is that you can easily install them yourself. Even people who have never wired a light switch could do so with little to no training. Simply connect the plug and you are good to go. The power of the sun is at your fingertips. The only downside is that you will need plenty of space to store them.
More Than Meets The Eye: Using Solar Energy To Provide Energy
While many companies are just using solar energy to power their air-conditioning and lighting, some are looking into using it to provide energy for other functions. For example, some are experimenting with using concentrated solar power to charge electronic devices on the surface of a plane. Rather than having individual devices plugged into an outlet, this system would involve harnessing the power of the sun to charge up multiple devices at once. This could mean that you would have one outlet, but it would be more energy efficient if all your devices were charged at the same time.
Another use for concentrated solar power is in desalination. Rather than having to transport freshwater from one area to another, which is energy-intensive and costly, you could simply harness the power of the sun to produce fresh water where you need it. There is an entire industry built on this concept and it is known as solar-powered desalination. With this technology, you will be able to generate as much as 15kW of power, which is more than enough to power all your household needs, including an air-conditioning unit. This technology is particularly suited to areas where there is an acute shortage of freshwater, such as the Middle East and Africa.
Where Does This Leave The Aerospace Industry?
With alternative energies gaining more and more traction, it is only a matter of time before they displace fossil fuels. Once this happens, the industry will need to adapt. While they can continue to use fossil fuels for power the initial stages of their aviation careers, they will undoubtedly move to more sustainable modes, as soon as they can. This means that, while there is still a place for fossil fuels in the short term, the long term does not look good for them.
There is a lot of exciting technological change occurring in the aerospace industry. With new opportunities arising from the implementation of sustainable energies, the field will continue to evolve and adapt to meet the demands of a new generation.