Solar Powered Outdoor Christmas Lights
Within 5 years outdoor Christmas lights will be a distant memory. Pressure from global warming lobbyists will mean that people will no longer be allowed to 'waste' mains electricity on frivolous Christmas lights display. For those who love their outdoor Christmas display lights, Will and Guy are assembling a team to design an alternative energy source: solar-powered outdoor Christmas lights.
Our plan is to use solar panels to store the sun's energy during the day in a battery. Then in the evening, to use that electricity to power lights that only flash for 1/60th of a second, thus using considerably less power than normal outdoor Christmas lights.
The next time you are driving your car after dark, pause behind the rear lights of modern bicycle, you can see the effect of what we are striving to achieve. The bike uses a dynamo convert pedal power into an electrical charge, which is then release a burst of light. To produce our Christmas tree flashing lights, we will use solar panels which store the sun's energy in a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. Indeed, our emergency plan is to hire someone like Lance Armstrong, or better still - Floyd Landis, to power the outdoor Christmas lights.
We are working to overcome the problem of colour. Our eyes interpret images through rods and cones. The eye's rods are more sensitive to light than the cones. For our cones to detect colour they need much greater intensity, so to begin with our light displays will feature only white flashing lights.
Another problem that has probably already occurred to you is that there is not much sunlight in December. We are working on a device that will need only 2hrs of sunlight before it generates sufficient energy to run the lights for 1hr at night. Actually, we recommend 4 periods of 15 minutes may be more interesting to the home owner and the neighbours.
To recap, conventional lights will soon be outlawed once the global energy conservation movement gains momentum. Average sunlight in December is less than 2hrs a day. The answer is to harness moonlight. It must have occurred to you that we don't always have a full moon - true enough. But we have calculated that from waxing half-moon to full moon then to waning half moon, when properly focussed, the moon will produce enough energy to run our Mark II Outdoor Christmas Lights for half an hour. Naturally the Mark II version will also incorporate the sunlight trapping powers of the Mark I system.
Our main snag with moon powered lights has been making the mirror that reflects the moonlight small enough for normal households. So far we need a 50ft mirror to achieve the desired energy levels.
This article was first published on April 1st 2007.
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