Looking for new ways to make solar look good in tight jeans?
July 22, 2011 7:50 PM   Subscribe

How do I make solar "sexy"?

I work at a solar startup company. As part of our PR and marketing, one of our VP's would like to create a "sexy" way to showcase a few of our prototype solar panels. The only "sexy" idea I've come up with so far would be a electric vehicle charging station for the few people who drive electric hybrids. What other small scale applications are there for solar that make for a good PR photo opp. Thanks in advance.

Also, sexy is is scare quotes because my VP won't stop saying the word sexy. Sexy.
posted by anonymous to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Things I'd love to use solar for:

1. Charging my sexy smartphone. I have a solar charger already that ostensibly does this, but it's fairly limited.

2. Running LED pendant lights from dedicated rooftop solar panels once I have a house.

3. Powering always-on things like a sleek digital LCD photo frame.

4. Charging my sexy camera and laptop.
posted by limeonaire at 7:58 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Solar powered coffee carts. Hire them out for events and festivals.
posted by girlgenius at 8:03 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Set up one of those inductive chargers and have potential customers charge their phones or ipods with sun power.

Serve cold beverages out of a mini fridge. Do a whole mini-bar setup with a blender and a neon sign hanging in the back.
posted by carsonb at 8:10 PM on July 22, 2011

Solar powered hot tub. It isn't quite small, but man is it sexy.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:21 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a laptop charging station at a public park...

or how about solar powered cardio equipment at a gym...

On preview - the solar powered hot tub sounds like a winner.
posted by cinemafiend at 8:25 PM on July 22, 2011

Big solar powered fans in downtown public plazas.
posted by Flashman at 9:09 PM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

I suppose it depends on your company's specific niche, but people likely to buy from you at this point already consider solar "sexy".

I will tell you, as someone extremely interested in solar but aware that a full rooftop PV system using current tech would never break even for me (I live in New England, not SoCal) - You could probably sell me on some way to use solar that doesn't require me to "take the plunge" into a full grid-tied system.

Just as an example, a solar-powered UPS that would give me a few hours of PC use (up to around 500WH) per night would appeal to me - Though just for the UPS part of it (nevermind the solar part), I don't know if anyone could realistically sell something like that for an affordable (nevermind break-even-over-time) price.
posted by pla at 9:10 PM on July 22, 2011

I have no idea if this is possible, but you know what I think would be unbelievably awesome? A solar panel...on top of my car. 90% of the parking lots that I use are in full sun, as is my driveway. Think of all the electronics we use in cars--GPS units, laptops, movie players for kids, phones... It would be fantastic to have something that could help support my car-electronics use, especially since we've got two cars in our household, and neither of them came with a cigarette lighter or outlet that we could use to power this sort of thing.
posted by MeghanC at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you could rig up your solar panels to power a high style, rechargeable vibrator, you might have the ultimate, practical, small scale "sexy" photovoltaic solar application.
posted by paulsc at 10:14 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding the car thing. Ugh. If it could absorb some of that energy and reduce the heat going into the car (or even present an extra barrier as a layer), so much the better.

But my own idea is a garden or landscaping with solar power to pump a water feature (although some may say this wastes water -- maybe you could donate cut flowers to a retirement home or make it really verdant so that the plants/trees provide enough shade to minimize evaporation). The pump would recirculate the water, so you wouldn't have to use municipal water continuously. It might become a little bit of a hassle to keep the intake clean, etc., but it could be truly beautiful and would be a lovely place for employees to hang out.

Actually, you depending on your location, you might be able to collect water with rain barrels or something, so you wouldn't use much municipal water at all.

You could also set up some kind of big fan to keep flies away and cool off visitors. Make your place of business an oasis (yes, it was 102 degrees Fahrenheit here today).

Alternatively, you could try using solar to power motorized miniature golf/Putt-Putt fixtures and make a little Putt-Putt course, or maybe partner with an existing Putt-Putt facility.

You could power the water pump for a waterslide!

In winter, you could power Christmas decorations (take a photo and frame it so people can see it during the day, too). Make an elaborate, fun display.

You could also consider getting an elaborate mechanized/motorized sculpture to display out front; this will probably be pretty expensive, but it will definitely attract notice if you are located somewhere people drive by. Focus on beauty, rather than letting this project morph into a motorized sign.
posted by amtho at 10:18 PM on July 22, 2011

I wish I could use solar to charge my firejewel necklace, which does a very nice job of drawing attention to my clavicles and breasts but goes through batteries a bit fast.
posted by NoraReed at 10:35 PM on July 22, 2011

The only "sexy" idea I've come up with so far would be a electric vehicle charging station for the few people who drive electric hybrids.

That particular idea has "fail" written all over it. Have you run the numbers and figured out how long it would take, and how many solar panels?

They're talking about charging stations being 20 kilowatts, and it would still take hours to charge a car at that kind of power level.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:41 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Without sounding too mercenary, the sexiest thing I can imagine solar panels doing is making a meter run backwards. Seriously, the notion of households becoming net energy producers, selling energy back into the grid, rather than suckling at the teat of the power company, is all-kinds of American wetdream. That's your money shot. $exxy!
posted by mumkin at 11:09 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Solar powered rain barrel pump.
posted by scalespace at 6:45 AM on July 23, 2011

One thing I've always disliked about solar panels is how blocky and industrial they look, especially on top of houses. Figure out a way to stylize the design...go against the herd...use curves/designs/art/creativity. Or make it so they appear to blend in with their surroundings rather than stand out. Those sorts of added touches would appeal to me personally, as it speaks of quality and attention to design.
posted by samsara at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2011

Need more information. "Sexy" is relative.

1. Where will the solar panels be displayed?
2. Who are you trying to attract? What is the persona? (Are these residential user/purchasers? Architects? Contractors? Distributors?)
3. What do you want them to do after examining your panels? (Buy? Make your product available to their clients?)
posted by jeanmari at 9:01 AM on July 23, 2011

I have this dream of building a two seater electric car that looks like a cross between the batmobile, a delorean and a P-51 Mustang from a universe where they were reverse engineering fighter plane a crashed flying saucer. The "sexy" solar panel part is that when you park it, the remote that locks and unlocks the door rolls back the canopy can also tell it to go into charge mode, and much of the upper body unfolds into collecting surfaces.

Sure it would be more efficient to put those panels on my roof so they could do their thing any time the sun was shining and charge from the grig. But a car that goes back and forth from being a solar energy farm to looking like what you get if you asked Hugo Gernsback to redesign the shark would be sexy.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:49 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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