Images via Solar Road Technologies
Here's something you don't see in every (or any) office building - a cubicle outlined in solar panels. It's a way to convert all that wasted indoor lighting into energy to power...um...your desk lamp? For half an hour? Well at least one or two small devices on your desk, though not your computer which is the biggest energy sucker you have in your cubicle. It's intended to help office buildings lower their electricity bill since workers can plug their gadgets straight into the base of their cube, rather than into the wall. But...can it? Red Ferret points us to this creation by Solar Road Technologies, which is looking to have the CubeTube on the market in 2011. The creators state: "The device simply clips to cubicle walls, or can be placed on desktops or windowsills. CubeTube's patented cylindrical shape allows light harvesting in all directions, not just overhead. Unlike other solar energy products, CubeTube will not be affected by weather changes because it works completely off of indoor lighting."
Solar cells on rounded surfaces like this tend to be less efficient than flat solar cells, since a smaller surface area is pointed directly at the light source, plus indoor light harvesting is usually less efficient than direct sunlight. So all in all, the tubes lining a cubicle will only generate a minimal amount of energy. The idea of placing these along window sills is smarter.
If the device(s) plugged into the CubeTube need more juice than ambient lighting can provide, the CubeTube switches to its backup battery, where energy generated by the solar cells is stored. And if that isn't enough, then it will switch over to AC power from the grid.
It would probably take a significant number of these tubes lining every cubicle corner to gather up enough to run the office printer. Though, we can't be sure about that - the makers don't specify how much electricity output this would be capable of. It might end up being a brilliant solution when it comes on the market next year, but we're kinda guessing it will take a very long time before an office manager saw a return on investment with these.
Still - it's a clever idea, and we love the creative thinking for how to get offices less dependent on grid energy. It's a good intention though not the best invention - well, not even a remotely good invention. We're doubtful we'll see this on the market in 2011, or ever.