Although great strides have been made recently to make offices more energy efficient, fluorescent office lighting is still great cause for concern. Installing controllers which automatically switch off lighting when no movement is detected is one method of saving energy but Solaroad Technologies proposes recycling otherwise wasted light energy by placing cylindrical photovoltaic harvesting and storage devices on top of workstation cubicle walls.
In a solar twist to the conventional uninterruptible power supply, the CubeTube is claimed to harvest enough energy from ambient office light to provide power to cubicle workstations "for several hours". The cylindrical array of photovoltaic cells is able to utilize light falling on the device from all directions and then store whatever energy is captured in Lithium-polymer batteries within the tube.
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The CubeTube is designed to clip onto the top of cubicle walls but can also be placed on window sills or even on the edge of desks and comes in different sizes to fit different scenarios. Workstations, printers and so on can then be plugged into the CubeTube where a smart charging system monitors the charge level of the batteries to determine their discharge rate.
If the system finds that the CubeTube doesn't have sufficient juice to run whatever device is drawing power from it, "an automated switching device is in place to switch the workstation back to the A/C grid" while the batteries recover. Once charged again, the power is again switched and provided by the CubeTube.
Solaroad Technologies says that the CubeTube provides owners of office buildings with an energy efficiency system which is "inexpensive, easy to install, and will quickly pay for itself in electrical savings", although actual pricing details have yet to appear.
Other details are scant too, such as actual ouput, conversion efficiency, or technical specifications, but the company's GridKicker solar generation bank and ElectraWall storage device, which are based on the same cylindrical photovoltaic collection principles but are built for outdoor use, are currently being tested by Towson University professors and students, where such things as durability, storage capacity, electrical output, and maintenance requirements of each product will be measured.
Solaroad Technologies has also drawn up plans to install roadside cylindrical collectors to harvest and store energy from the miles and miles of currently untapped highways, roads and pathways, similar in essence to the Solar Roadways project from Scott Brusaw we looked at last year.
Although any device that can generate power from otherwise wasted energy is always a boon, photovoltaic conversion from ambient light is not renowned for its efficiency so it will be interesting to see if Solaroad Technologies' claims of reducing company energy costs by providing enough power to run a workstation from the CubeTube setup actually live up to the promise.
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