Portable Solar Panels – Going Solar on a Ski Trip

We have already witnessed the impact of climate change on summer sports: forest fires and heat waves can lead to heat stress and impact air quality to dangerous levels for both fans and athletes. The World Economic Forum forecasts climate change-induced heat stress would cause 38,000 more fatalities each year between 2030 and 2050.

What about the cold months, though? Evidence suggests that climatic changes will make extreme weather more often and may even lead to more rainfall. But the most important point is that winters are growing shorter and warmer on average, which means we are receiving less snow and more rain. The New York Times predicts that by 2050, nine past Winter Olympics locations may not be dependably frigid enough to hold the games. Whether it's for the Olympic Games or for general winter pleasure, it's probable that winter sports seasons will get cut down.

An artificial snow machine referred to as a snow cannon can compensate for a shortened snowfall season - but the machine is not perfect. Snow machines rely on the high-pressure pumping of water through tiny nozzles. Water freezes into snow-like ice crystals instantaneously upon contact with cold air. These machines drink up both electricity and water like it's going out of style. This is hardly a workable option moving forward.

Is Portable Solar Power the Solution?          portable solar panels ski trip

As solar nerds, we often wonder about creative ways to use solar power during the colder months. The solar panels are somewhat more efficient in the cold than the heat, and they are also more efficient at higher altitudes (in mountainous areas at higher altitudes, the increasing slope leads to lower diffusion and irradiation and, consequently, increased solar panel efficiency). This is exactly what we need for solar-powered skiing expeditions.

Solar Ski-Lifts

Using solar panels attached to the ski lift's cables, a ski resort in Switzerland's Safien Valley built the first solar-powered ski lift. Only 22,000 of the annual 90,000 kWh produced by the lift are required to run the lift. And that's on top of the over 50,000 lbs. of coal that might be avoided thanks to the excess renewable energy of 68,000 kWh. This renewable energy is then sold back to the resort's power provider (under a Swiss mechanism analogous to the net metering used in the USA.

Solar Arrays

Bromley Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont has finished a 615-kW solar project in light of climate change's effects on winter across the Northeastern United States. In order to achieve its sustainability goals, Bromley will use the new initiative to utilize locally generated, clean solar electricity. It is estimated that the yearly electricity output from the solar farm installed in the mountain will be sufficient to power 70 typical homes and counteract the emissions from driving 120 cars. Bromley Mountain also continues to develop more efficient snowmaking techniques, including the installation of new engines.

A 147-kW solar array was erected by Aspen Ski Company (ASC) in Colorado, a place with approximately 300 annual sunny days (and one of the top states for solar subsidies). While this isn't enough to run the full resort, it does show how sustainability practices are improving because of the declining cost of solar power, increasing solar tax subsidies, and more awareness of climate change and its devastating consequences.

Cooperative Energy

The Colorado ski resort named Wolf Creek has joined the trend, collaborating with the RES (Renewable Energy Solutions) and SLVREC (San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative) to build a massive 2.75 MW (2,750 kilowatts) solar farm in the sunny San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado.

The success of the project was due to the collaborative efforts of many people from both the public and commercial sectors. It's an effective illustration of the advantages of community solar. There was a rising need for clean energy in forward-thinking Colorado, and San Luis Valley Electric Cooperative required a new source of renewable power to supply it. Wolf Creek is a privately held company with a commitment to environmental sustainability, but it is unlikely that it would have the financial resources to construct a 2.75-MW solar farm on 25 acres.

After purchasing the 25 acres, SLVREC contracted with RES to supply and install the solar panels under a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The resort at Wolf Creek now reimburses SLVREC for some of the electricity the farm generates.

San Luis Valley Electric's carbon footprint has been significantly reduced, and the Wolf Creek resort is now powered by nearly 100% renewable energy, thanks to the collaboration of public and private interests.

Solar Powered Ski-Helmet

                portable solar panels ski trip

A research team from the Fraunhofer Reliability and Micro-integration Institute collaborated with the German tech firm Technische Universität Berlin and the technology company TEXSYS to create a communications module, which can be built into a ski helmet. That component is solar-powered and can communicate with the user's other electronic gadgets through a Bluetooth-enabled glove.

Stereo speakers inside the helmet, a microphone in the chin strap, along with a Bluetooth transmitter and receiver that make up the communications module. The helmet's electronics are powered by a curved solar panel located on top, which recharges a lithium-polymer battery.

It's not as easy as it seems to design a solar panel that can work and conform to the curved surface area of a ski helmet. Although flexible, thin solar cells already exist, they can only be twisted in a single direction, making it impossible to shape them into a dome. In most cases, they are also not as effective as rigid cells.

The Fraunhofer Group overcame this difficulty by producing several small chips from monocrystalline silicon solar cells. Because of their small size, the team could not only evenly distribute the chips around the helmet's rounded surface, but they would also be less likely to be damaged by the helmet's mechanical components. Furthermore, the functionality of the other chips in the panel will not be impacted if a single or even multiple chip cells fail. 

The skiers also had to contend with the chilly weather, as it is notoriously challenging to charge batteries in sub-zero conditions. According to reports, however, the module's battery can be charged at temperatures ranging from -30 degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius, thanks to a custom microprocessor. Even if the temperature drops below that threshold, the communications system will remain capable of using solar power so long as there is adequate sunlight.

There is a large OLED screen and straightforward button controls on the control glove. It will allow users to conduct operations, such as receiving and making phone calls, or controlling a Bluetooth-connected music player. In the event that one of these auxiliary gadgets runs out of energy, the helmet's battery might be used to replenish it.

Of course, skiers may also choose the even more extreme option of not even bringing their phones or music players out on the slopes with them.

Having developed a prototype helmet, Fraunhofer is now collaborating with a large helmet manufacturer to produce a small commercial run that will be available by the end of the year for around EUR300 (US$393) apiece. Additionally, the modules will be sold separately for less than EUR100 ($131), making it possible to fit them into a wide variety of helmets, including those worn by motorcyclists.

Benefits of Using Portable Solar Panels for Skiing

1)   Portability

Other solar power generators have the major drawback of being too huge and cumbersome to take anywhere. Due to this, they can't be easily carried anywhere outside of a fixed area to provide electricity because they're too bulky.

The convenience of portable solar panels lies in the fact that they may be simply transported to anywhere you wish to use solar power for skiing.

2)   Affordability

Portable solar generators are significantly less costly than their traditional counterparts.

You can find a portable solar generator for as low as $250 – a small fraction of what it will cost you to buy and install a conventional generator.

3)   Versatility

The applications for solar-powered generators are vast. These generators can power electronics, such as phones and computers, as well as essentials like refrigerators and stoves, in the event of a power outage.

Some models have fans and lighting for added convenience in a variety of settings.

4)   Cost-Efficiency

Alongside having a significantly lower upfront cost compared to traditional fuel-driven generators, portable solar generators are also less expensive in the long run. Solar generators, in contrast to conventional generators, need neither fuel nor regular maintenance.

Not only that, but as long as you own the solar generator, you will never have to pay for power again.

5)   Clean Energy

The insufficient environmental-friendliness of conventional power sources is one of their major drawbacks.

But since solar generators don't need dirty fossil fuels or hazardous chemicals to work, they have no perceptible effect on the environment when in operation.

How Will Climate Change Affect Sports?

Shorter, warmer winters reduce the ski season and demand increased energy needs to make artificial snow, making ski resorts one of the first recreational enterprises that may feel the consequences of climate change. Solar power is becoming increasingly popular in ski areas as a means to adapt to fluctuating energy demands, combat climate change, and preserve snowy winters.

But, how will other sports adapt? Will baseball, soccer, and tennis, all traditionally played outside, be brought within to shield players from toxic air and scorching temperatures in certain cities this summer? There will be a significant energy cost associated with maintaining comfortable temperatures within these massive buildings.

Will the Tour de France and other traditionally summertime events be moved to the spring or fall to avoid the heat? Can other winter sports make the transition indoors as ice hockey has?

Regardless of where you think sports are headed, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the sector will need more energy, and more specifically electricity from renewable sources. In a world where climate change is becoming increasingly common, we hope that the initiative taken by solar-driven ski resorts will establish a precedent for the remaining sports industry to follow.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, from being a cleaner source of energy to delivering greater efficiency at higher altitudes, there are plenty of reasons why portable solar generators make sense for ski resorts as well as for individuals or groups planning ski expeditions.

If you are looking for portable solar panels for skiing, we invite you to check out our wide range of options. We offer many different kinds of solar panels and can help you pick one based on your needs, budget, and region.

To learn more about portable solar panels for ski trips and other outdoor entertainment or to explore your options, please feel free to reach out to us.

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