12 Average Things Solar Makes Cool

Solar panels – so mundane. These days, it's not the panel itself, but what it's attached to that allows solar to transcend function and enter the realm of fashionably hip. What can you do with your solar panels? Be inspired by these 12 innovative solar contraptions that are doing their best to keep "green" synonymous with "trendy." Are they succeeding or failing? You be the solar power judge.

1. Solar Bricks

Solar Bricks Manufacturers
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What are they: A groovy, glowing alternative to traditional sidewalk lighting.

How they work: Solar bricks charge during the day; after 8 hours of light, they will automatically glow at night.

How hip: As long as you keep the colors close to natural, you'll only toe the line between gaudy and good taste.

2. Solar Backpacks

Solar Backpacks Manufacturers
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What are they: A transportable – and wearable – way to charge your everyday, small electronics while on the move.

How they work: Solar backpacks have flexible, light solar panels on the outside which generate and store surplus energy. These packs come equipped with standard adapters for cell phones and MP3 devices.

How hip: Very. It's outdoors-wear with a boost.

3. Solar Furniture

Solar Furniture Manufacturers
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What is it: Patio furniture have flexible, light solar panels on the outside which generate and store surplus energy. These packs come equipped with standard adapters for cell phones and MP3 devices.

How it works: The various pieces soak up the sun so that when night falls, mood lighting won't be a problem.

How hip: Sure your furniture may glow in the dark, but the chairs don't even have backrests! Another case of too hip to be comfortable.

4. Solar Flashlights

Solar Flashlights Manufacturers

What are they: It's a flashlight, but this one doesn't take batteries!

How they work: Solar flashlights are just as bright as the flashlights you have used before, but the built-in, rechargeable battery stores three hours of power from solar energy. Stuck in a pinch? Some come with built-in emergency cell phone chargers as well, so you'll never be out of reach.

How hip: Not very, until you're lost in the dark without any batteries. Then hip becomes life-saving.

5. Solar Road Studs

Solar Road Studs Manufacturers
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What are they: The glowing markers that outline highways and byways at night.

How they work: Solar road studs are super luminous LED lights that range in colors. Strong enough for 20 tons of automobile, these guys are used on particularly dangerous roads. They store up energy during the day and can shine in the dark for over 100 hours.

How hip: There is something to be said for things that are beautiful and that can save your life.

6. Solar Airplanes

Solar Airplanes Manufacturers
Image courtesy of gizmodo.com

What are they: Airplanes that can fly using only the energy of the sun – that means no fuel and no pollution.

How they work: Solar airplanes, like the Solar Impulse that is being created and tested right now, use solar panels on top of the long, wide aircraft wings to store up enough energy to continue flying through the night. As of July 10th, the Solar Impulse completed the first 26-hour solar flight in history.

How hip: The hippest. Imagine if you were the first person to fly a 26-hour flight without fuel? The crew behind the Solar Impulse are unsung solar heroes.

7. Solar Soccer Balls

Solar Soccer Balls Manufacturers
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What are they: A normal-looking soccer ball, only with audio signals and motion detectors powered by solar energy. Solar soccer balls are designed to give vision-impaired footballers a heads up when the ball is near.

How they work: New, custom-shaped solar panels can be molded and cut so they fit the shape of a soccer ball.

How hip: Until Cristiano Ronaldo becomes visually impaired, these probably won't become very popular. But they still look cool.

8. Solar Lighters

Solar Lighters Manufacturers
Image courtesy of envirogadget.com

What are they: From bonfires to your 10-minute smoke break, solar lighters are the cheapest and most eco-friendly ways to light up. This is the same type of device (only smaller) as what lights the Olympic torch.

How they work: A mini-parabolic disc, the spark lighter focuses the sun onto your tinder placed in the center prongs until flames appear.

How hip: Smoking is on its way out, so solar lighters will have a hard time breaking out of the rebellious-yet-eco-conscious-teenager crowd. If only Don Draper used one...

9. Solar Watches

Solar Watches Manufacturers
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What is it: No tricks here – it's just a watch.

How it works: Forget about those pesky trips to the jeweler to replace your watch battery. These guys will keep themselves charged for as long as the sun keeps shining.

How hip: There is nothing hipper than a hip, solar watch. Nothin'.

10. Solar Bug Zappers

Solar Bug Zappers Manufacturers
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What they are: Bright LED lights attract pesky mosquitoes, which get zapped by a high-voltage grid. Yowch.

How they work: Typically, garden pest control items are powered by electricity or by batteries. Solar powered zappers charge their batteries throughout the day and automatically turn on at night. You're evening picnics will be bug-free.

How hip: Everyone will want to come to your summertime BBQ (and not your neighbors who all the mosquitoes).

11. Solar Clothes Dryers

Solar Clothes Dryers Manufacturers
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What is it: The alternative to a front-loader.

How it works: Solar-charged batteries keep the contraption rotating so your damp delicates dry evenly in the sunlight.

How hip: Not using excessive electricity = hip. Damp mildewing clothes from not drying all the way = smelly. Best if used in a hot, dry climate.

12. Solar Powered Self-Cooling Summer Hats

Solar Powered Self-Cooling Summer Hats Manufacturers
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What are they: Hats with solar-powered fans that help keep you cool when the weather gets hot. They claim to prevent sunstroke and overheating, but these guys have fashion faux pas written all over them.

How they works: Tiny solar panels on the top or brim of the hat power fans that fluff a gentle, cooling breeze on your face.

How hip: The hippest. Just kidding – wear this and experience social suicide firsthand. At least you'll perish cool and refreshed. What is missing from the list? Start creating your own solar powered contraption now and stay in the trend. But hurry – solar powered cars are on their way, and they are the epitome of awesome.

Solar car
Image courtesy of pveducation.org

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