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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Empowering the public’s energy autonomy: environmental and cost benefits

7/12/2022

4 min read

Two students standing either side of EI CEO, with library shelving full of books behind Photo: Energy Institute
Sasha Polakov and Josephine Hibou, winners of the 2022 Energy Institute Climate Change Special Award at The Big Bang Competition, with the Energy Institute’s CEO Nick Wayth

Photo: Energy Institute

Winners of the 2022 Energy Institute Climate Change Special Award* at The Big Bang Competition, Sasha Polakov and Josephine Hibou from St Paul’s Girls’ School, discuss their innovative and novel solar blinds concept, SolUp.

We need to develop more creative and holistic solutions to not only accelerate the UK’s goal of achieving net zero by 2050, but also to combat climate change and address the cost of living and energy crises by improving energy efficiency. Currently, many of the government’s plans involve large-scale investment in green technology.

 

But an untapped potential is looking at how we can adapt everyday items to achieve these decarbonisation goals. In fact, these may even come along with extended benefits that may not yet be realised in current clean energy technologies.

 

One creative solution  
With this in mind, we set out to develop a product that would be easily accessible and implementable in people’s everyday lives.

 

Our solar blinds provide homeowners with the ability to generate electricity from the comfort of their own homes through ergonomic solar technology. Whilst still fulfilling their function as blinds, they also generate electricity throughout the day, which is then either stored or channelled into the energy grid where it can later be sold.

 

The solar blinds work by generating electricity through the photovoltaic cells on the surface of the blinds. They are made of monocrystalline silicon which is the most efficient form of silicon photovoltaic cell. This energy can be stored or passed through an inverter connected to the energy grid.

 

We’ve implemented various other design changes to ensure that our blinds are as efficient as possible. We explored the potential use of mirrors and found that at the right angle, mirrors could increase the efficiency of solar panels by as much as 70%. We therefore incorporated this into our later design. We also chose to utilise light dependent resistors (LDRs) to help tilt the blinds in accordance with the sunlight. In addition, we considered the idea of making our slats with staggered widths, longer at the bottom and gradually getting shorter, in order to increase exposure and reduce the impacts of the shading effect.

 

Once we had created a prototype of our blinds and ensured that they would produce electricity effectively, we ran calculations to assess the financial impact of our blinds on energy bills and the role they can play in reducing energy generation from fossil fuels. Using data from EDF, we estimated that 1,400 kWh of energy could be generated per household annually. This accounts for the generation of approximately 9% of an average household’s energy. Not only would this reduce bills by 9%, but in the UK it would also allow the user to be eligible for bill reductions, thanks to both the ‘New Deal’ and ‘Green New Deal’.

 

Why is this solution a net zero accelerator?  
We are at a point in time where our transition from non-renewable to renewable energy is not only desirable but essential. Our solar blinds generate renewable energy in a way that is sustainable and reduces the world’s current reliance on fossil fuels. Renewable energy is at the forefront of the UK’s strategy to reach net zero by 2050, with a target of 2035 set for 100% zero carbon electricity generation.

 

However, reducing emissions is not the only benefit we have found with regards to our net zero acceleration concept. We found that most people feel renewable energy generation is not accessible. We wanted to change this and empower people to feel as though they are making a difference.


‘…when given a way to directly combat climate change, for instance through generating their own renewable energy, most people will seize the opportunity’

 

When it comes to climate change, it is easy for individuals to feel as though their contributions are insignificant. However, when given a way to directly combat climate change, for instance through generating their own renewable energy, most people will seize the opportunity. Moreover, there is a much greater chance that they will extend this feeling of empowerment to be greener into other aspects of their lives.

 

For us, this is a major benefit as we believe it is vital that every member of our community takes an active role in the fight against climate change. This is how we believe we will see true change on the global scale needed to achieve net zero.

 

From our end, we are continuing the development of our solar blinds in order to make them as efficient as possible. We plan to take our project to the next level by liaising with existing renewable energy organisations. We also want to target companies involved with the construction of new buildings and accommodation so that we can implement our innovation directly into the construction process. We are in the process of applying for a patent and hope that someday this idea will become a commercially viable product.

 

two schoolgirls holding up example of SolUp blinds

Sasha Polakov and Josephine Hibou with their innovative and novel solar blinds concept, SolUp

Photo: Energy Institute

 

*The Energy Institute Climate Change Special Award recognises projects developed by young people aged 11–18 that aim to bring about a lasting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the UK’s goal of net zero by 2050.

 

Entries are now open for the 2023 Big Bang Competition. To enter, or find out more information, click here.

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the authors only and are not necessarily given or endorsed by or on behalf of the Energy Institute.