So Eco Chic: Fashion Introduces Solar Panel Clothing
Written by Heather Rushworth
For centuries, the couture fashion industry has thrived as an escapist sector, a market of luxury indulgences, where consumers can revel in buying something ornately extravagant...with little practical value. Yet the recent technology boom, with its flood of multi-functional devices, may have complicated the desires of once simple fashion buyers. Perhaps the future may bring clothing that does more than, well, clothe?
The newest trend in fashion seems to indicate such a movement, as a number of fashion brands have released clothing options that incorporate the charging potential of solar technology.
Energy minded customers who hunger for clever unisex outerwear, need not look further than the Los Angeles based clothing company Silvr Lining. The innovative brand incorporates renewable energy technology into jackets, vests and cargo pants. Harnessing the genius of an electrical engineer, the company developed their cutting-edge line with the goal of supplying a wearable energy station for eco-conscious buyers looking to live, “off the grid.”
At $800 dollars a pop, this outerwear prominently displays book sized solar panels, (a tenacious design move which is bound to start eco-minded street conversation,) and they claim to emit enough charge from the sun rays to power an assortment of handheld devices from iPods to cell phones.
For the shopper who prefers to solar-power their devices while wearing a more scantily clad option, the fashion designer Andrew Schneider has designed the perfect pair of threads to folic in: a solar panel bikini.
Constructed of a flexible solar panel fabric, the suit is totally waterproof, and has a 5 volt USB port to charge personal devices on. For an affordable $200, sun bathers can finally spend the entire day tanning while texting, without worrying about their cell phone dying mid-Facebook update.
Another solar-fashion trailblazer, Noon, a female owned company based out of Chicago sells custom, handmade purses and totes outfitted with a built in flexible solar panel. The designers claim these handbags glean enough power from the sun to charge a flurry of handheld devices, and the products’ benefits do not end there. The handbags are also created out of all compostable materials, and styled with water based dyes. The comprehensive eco-bags may certify their wearer as the epitome of green chic, but they cost some major green as well, ranging from $400-$500 in price.
If considered with blind optimism, these solar-powered clothing products may indicate a cavalry of renegade trailblazers, visionaries with strong conviction that the future of fashion will offer more than just mono-function duds. Yet if considered with a more discriminatory eye, these fashion ideas seem downright hokey and as technologically useful as a tin can phone.
Firstly, the price points of these designs do not suggest a mass shift in purchasing; at upwards of 800 dollars a pop, these high tech products are obviously designed for the elite few. This cost does not justify the product, as their teensy voltage, and pathetic surface area would necessitate extremely long periods of sun exposure on the part of the wearer. The jackets in particular are confusing, as the bulky weight of the fabric, coupled with the necessary sunlight needed for it to function is bound to result in some degree of heat stroke on the part of the wearer.
Also, technology has already deemed these products obsolete, as new long lasting batteries are set to hit the market, allowing devices to run for as long as a month off of a single charge. So unless you are planning an immediate bikini-excursion through the Sahara desert, and you simply have to bring your Blackberry, do yourself a favor, and save your money to buy something useful…like a car charger.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly