It might still sound a bit complicated, high-tech, even futuristic, but a solar powered garden is easier to achieve than you think. Living in the Gulf, we are very fortunately located to truly take advantage of this underutilised resource. The UAE has one of the highest sun exposure rates in the world, giving it a high potential for renewable energy development. In fact, the region’s impressive solar capacity has inspired an active renewable energy drive by the UAE government. The UAE’s Clean Energy Strategy 2050 aims to provide 7% of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy sources by 2020, 25% by 2030, and 75% by 2050.
It’s a pretty natural progression actually – plants already capture light through photosynthesis and convert it into the energy that fuels life, but photovoltaic technology has become more mainstream and adaptable, making it possible to harness the sun’s rays for dozens of garden applications. Also known as solar thermal energy, this is the low-tech end of solar power generation and easy enough to set up yourself without any special equipment required. The idea is that you capture and intensify the heat from the sun, store it and release it, as needed. Solar power is the obvious solution to so many of our gardening needs. You don’t need massive solar panels or complicated installations to power something as small and as energy-efficient as a light, a garden fountain or a water pump, and the smallest panels are often incorporated into the fitting itself. For many reasons, the use of solar powered features in the garden has seen an upward trend. Cost-effective, eco-friendly and diverse application are just a few.
1) Solar lighting
Probably the most popular way to use solar energy in the garden, solar lights store the sun’s energy collected via a small photovoltaic panel during the day. Low-energy LED bulbs use a minimal amount of power, so you’ll get hours of light after dark for illuminating pathways, highlighting garden features, creating dramatic lighting effects or even powering lights in a pool. Solar lights have no wiring, and the photovoltaic cells are usually built into the casing so you can move them around the garden to create different effects to suit your mood.
2) Solar water features
Forget trailing wires, external electrical outlets, power extension cords and electrocution risks. Water features and fountains that run on solar energy remove those headaches. Connect the solar pump and place your solar panel in a sunny spot in the garden, then enjoy the soothing tones and design addition of a fountain, waterway or mini-waterfall. Solar energy pumps can also be used effectively in garden rock pools and fish ponds – although it’s worth noting that the pumps don’t continue to work after dark, so you may need an electrical backup for night-time use to maintain the fish.
3) Solar sheds/greenhouses
The latest, cutting-edge technology in the world of solar power is solar glazing: fine films of photovoltaic cells embedded within glass, so you can collect power from your windows. When you glaze an entire greenhouse, it can generate enough energy to power your home! Shed roofs are great sites for framed photovoltaic panels too. Just one 80-watt solar panel attached to two 12-watt leisure batteries should give enough electricity to power fluorescent lighting, power tools and a radio. Double that to 160 watt and you can run a fridge, a laptop and even a TV, transforming your outdoor space into a solar powered entertainment venue or a very cost-effective refuge.
4) Solar swimming pools
A pool is a fabulous entertaining element of a garden but it can be a serious drain on your DEWA bill. A 900-watt solar pool pump for filtering a regular size swimming pool or solar heating a large pool is a solid solution to this dilemma.
5) Solar irrigation
Solar power can also help you water your garden. Sunshine is the perfect irrigation resource – because you need the most water when it is warm and sunny. The idea is simple: you set up the solar panel somewhere sunny to charge the battery, kick-starting a pump in your water tank to start delivering water through a tube, pipe or dripper system to the places it is needed the most, keeping your garden hydrated and green.
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