Why solar power can help us cycle round the world

Energy Matters0


I had been a keen environmentalist for some time, starting up a sustainable-living blog in 2004. Now though, I turned my attention to solar energy.

Investigations led me to the first solar-powered rickshaws operating in India. Always keen to seek out original challenges, I meandered onto the idea of taking one on a long distance journey. To my dismay, the rickshaw was not suitable for covering such distance.

But the idea of undertaking an adventure to demonstrate solar around the world had taken root. If I couldn’t do it on a rickshaw I would do it in another environmentally-friendly way: by bicycle.

I began to read about new flexible nanosolar panels, which would be ideal to power my technology in places far from a plug. In my research, I eventually found G24 Innovations, a Cardiff-based company specialising in dye-sensitised flexible thin-film solar technology. I gave them a call. “Of course we can make solar panniers. We can attach the panels to almost any fabric.” Really? Could I have a solar dress too?

Sadly, the dress was deemed impractical but I convinced my friends Iain and Jamie to accompany me on this solar-powered journey. Today, starting in London on EU Solar Day, we set off for a 12,000-mile tour of solar power around the world.

We are taking a satellite tracking device which, along with other communications equipment, will be powered using solar panels on our bike panniers. The independence of the solar kit will help us document the entire route – from Libyan sandstorms to ancient Iranian cities, 4000-metre passes in Kyrgyzstan to the lowest point of Death Valley – precisely and second by second.

Our route has been chosen to take us through North Africa and the Middle East in order to visit a concentrated solar plant and profile the work of the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC), a project to supply huge amounts of green energy from the Sahara. We’ll go past the Quidam basin, where the world’s biggest PV solar power station is being built, across the pacific by cargo ship (we are hoping to be carried by Nippon who have just launched the first solar-assisted freighter) and on to America’s solar heartland, the Nevada desert.

I hope the trip will demonstrate the potential of solar power in the run up to the Copenhagen climate summit this December. Follow us in real-time on The Solar Cycle Diaries, and wish us good luck with the weather.