Solar panels with flower

The Sun is a powerful thing. Not only is its diameter around 109 times the size of Earth’s diameter, it sends a whopping 173,000 terawatts of solar energy our way – this is more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use in any moment!

Without the Sun, we’d be toast. It allows life to thrive all over our planet, and we’ve been clever enough to harness its clean energy to power things that we use every day. Here are 10 examples:

1. Lights

Solar lights are great for any garden. They’re zero maintenance and free to use (minus the initial flat cost) – no dangerous wires running from your mains electricity, no increase in your electrical bill, and you don’t even have to switch them on or off as many solar lights are equipped with an automatic daytime shutoff function.

One such example is this set of Swivel Solar Disk Lights from Ben & Howell. With eight lights per pack, you can illuminate your garden with ease! They’re designed to light up any outdoor space, from walkways, steps and railings to patios, trees and even the garden shed. These clever solar-powered disk lights are laid flat to the ground in your garden and can be swivelled to the perfect lighting angle with ease to add inviting lighting exactly where you need it.



There’s no wiring, cords or ground stakes to assemble. These lights can be simply pushed into the ground so they lie flat, and as long as they get sunlight in the daytime, they will be ready to light up your outdoor space as the sun goes down. They can also be easily moved if your needs change.

Available here at QVC!

2. Planes

Solar Impulse 2

Milko Vuille, CC BY-SA 4.0


Solar Impulse 2 was a Swiss experiment that saw a plane fly around the world using only solar power. It took around 16 months, with the aircraft’s batteries sustaining thermal damage, taking months to replace, but it completed its journey on 26th July 2016. Hopefully, this has inspired efforts to create more reliable solar powered aircrafts in future, making our travel industries much cleaner.

3. Cars

Lightyear One

Lightyear01, CC BY-SA 4.0


We’ve all seen electric cars – but what about using solar power to get us from A to B? This technology has been in the making for years, but Lightyear One is likely to be the first solar powered car to be made available to the public, with preorders expected at the end of this year!

4. Plants


Sunflowers are an example of a heliotropic plant


I had to include plants in this list, of course! Plants need many other elements to survive, but when it comes to sunlight, they convert its energy into the nutrients that they require in order to thrive. Some plants are heliotropic, which means that they move in response to the direction of the sun. Isn’t that amazing?

5. Rubbish bins

Public Bin


Don’t try and look for a solar panel in your wheelie bin, because you won’t find one! Here, I’m referring to bins developed for public use in towns and cities, which use the Sun’s energy to compact waste, cutting operational costs and the energy it takes to collect waste. One example is the SolaPacta by BritishBins.

6. Watches

Solar powered Casio watch

Dnalor 01, CC BY-SA 3.0


Isn’t it so annoying when the battery runs out on your watch and you have to find a watch specialist to replace it? Many brands, including Casio and Seiko, have produced solar powered watches for years, so that you hopefully never have to replace a battery again! There are also other technologies used to power watches, from kinetic energy to wind-up mechanisms.

7. Ponds

Solar Pools

Solar Evaporation Ponds, Atacama Desert


Not just any ponds, though! Solar ponds are made of saltwater, which actually harnesses and stores the heat from the sun. You can find out more about how this works here, but the outcome is hot, salty water which can be pumped out and used for the generation of electricity.

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