Most Innovative Solar Projects Around the World

New technologies and inventions in the solar industry have gone large-scale in recent years, resulting in the development of innovative solar projects across the world.

The fact that most countries are adopting solar power has helped increase the percentage of renewables in the energy mix. Currently, renewable energy accounts for a third of the world’s total energy capacity. This is an achievement, given the depleting fossil fuels and the many dangers they pose.

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    Innovative Solar Projects across the World

    Floating Solar Farm – the Maldives

    The world’s first floating solar farm was built on the island nation of Maldives. The project idea came up when Michael Tittmann, a German solar pioneer, was visiting the Maldives in 2009 alongside European solar expert Martin Putschek.

    The diesel generators used for electricity production in the regions are not only an ecological burden but a financial one too since fuel is imported. Moreover, there is no ample land surface area for typical solar panel installations. It was these issues that gave birth to the company Swimsol in 2012, which aimed at providing a solution.

    Two years later, the company launched SolarSea™, a solar power plant built on the sea surface. The solar project designed for the marine environment prevents approximately 12,000 liters of diesel-burning each year. It aims to provide clean energy to 360 million people who live in remote coastal areas.

    The video below provide an illustration of the floating solar farm in the Maldives.

    Solar Bike Path – the Netherlands

    In 2014, the Netherlands made news when it opened SolaRoad, the first bike path in the world that could generate solar energy. 

    Initially, the 70 meter-long track was installed as a pilot project for feasibility studies. However, after turning out to be a success, it was expanded by 20 meters in 2016.

    Being a popular cycling destination, the Netherlands has put innovation and technology to excellent use with this solar project. The solar panels are embedded in the path and are then covered with a thick transparent coating. 

    The design ensures that the modules harness the energy from the sun while also providing a state-of-the-art bike path.

    Solar Bike Path – the Netherlands
    Image Credit: SolaRoad

    Within the first year, SolaRoad had already produced 9,800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy that was fed into the electricity grid, used for traffic systems, and street lights, among others.

    Solar Powered Train Tunnel – Belgium

    The world got its first solar train tunnel in 2011 when over $15 million was spent to construct the Paris-to-Amsterdam train line. Engineers working on the project installed 16,000 solar panels, covering a 2.1 mile-long stretch of the line.

    The solar tunnel, initially built to protect trains from falling trees in a forested area, generates around 3,300 megawatts hours annually. 

    The produced energy is enough to power 4,000 trains. This is an impressive achievement considering it can power one entire day of rail traffic all across the country. Moreover, the power generated takes care of 50 percent of the total energy required to power the Antwerp Central

    Solar Powered Train Tunnel – Belgium
    Image credit: New Atlas

    Solar-Powered Airport – India

    The Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) was the first airport in the world to run entirely on solar energy, marking a significant milestone for renewable technology. 

    The innovative solar project was named the CIAL Solar Power Project and started functioning in 2015. It has over 46,000 solar panels placed on a 45-acre land close to the runway.

    The solar project generate more power than the airport requires. The excess energy is fed into the state’s electric power grid. Since the airport handles over 10 million passengers annually, this is no small feat.

    The project is associated with other benefits. For instance, the land containing the solar panels is used to grow vegetables. It produces roughly 60 tons of organic vegetables each year.

    Solar Powered Airport- India
    Image Credit: The Plaid Zebra

    Being 100 percent dependent on clean energy, the airport is also reducing 300,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. In 2018, this successful solar project was awarded ‘Champions of the Earth,’ the UN’s highest environmental honor.

    Solar-Powered Carousel – United States

    The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C. drew attention in 2012 when they installed the Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel. This ride is among the very few carousels in the world that run on solar energy. It was built to educate visitors about conservation in a fun way.

    Check out this video to view the solar-powered carousel. 

    The 162 solar panels installed on the roof generate enough energy to keep the carousel running. Any extra power is routed back to the zoo’s grid to power other lights. The carousel also features more than 50 hand-carved and painted birds and animals, celebrating the zoo’s resident animals.

    A Solar-Powered Nation - Tokelau

    The tiny island country of Tokelau is one of the best examples of the most innovative solar projects. Why? The entire country is 100 percent powered by solar energy. 

    The achievement was made possible by the development of the 2012 Tokelau Renewable Energy Project. The project helped the nation to stop its dependence on the expensive and environment-harming diesel fuel.

    Today, Tokelau has over 4,000 solar panels that generate sufficient power for all its residents. During overcast weather, the country uses locally-sourced coconut oil to run the generators. 

    The clean energy practices keep 950 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year.

    Solar-Powered Nation - Tokelau
    Image Credit: EcoWatch

    The Future of Innovative Solar Projects

    Innovations are continually happening in the world of solar power, and more exciting projects are not far away. Dubai, for instance, is working on building the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant. There will undoubtedly be many more such projects as the world works together to diversify energy supplies.



    • John Gathuita

      John is an electrical and solar technician, writer, and blogger who specializes in renewable energy, sustainability, and technology. He seeks to inspire more people to adopt solar energy and to work towards a sustainable future.