Spray on Solar

Sun shining on solar panels in a field with sunflowers

According to a National Solar Survey, nine out of ten Americans think that the U.S. should develop and use more solar energy. Our population is interested in moving away from fossil fuel usage, and solar is the preferred source. Concessioners have long been interested in alternative energy, and many operations throughout the Service have already implemented solar technology. A couple of examples include Xanterra, which installed solar panels in Zion National Park to power the High Sierra camp bathrooms, and Flagg Ranch at Grand Teton National Park installed solar panels on the canopies of their golf carts to recharge cart batteries.

Concessioners with flat roofs and sun exposure have the existing infrastructure for ease of solar installation. What about concessioners who need to get more creative about the surfaces they install solar on? Finding cost-friendly options can be daunting. Due to high demand, more solar experts are researching ways to make solar energy more accessible, and easier to implement. Illan Kramer of the University of Toronto recently developed an altogether unexpected means of installing solar – via spray.

Kramer’s system “sprayLD” posits that solar-sensitive colloidal quantum dots (CQDs) can be printed on a flexible film which is malleable enough to coat any given surface: from patio furniture to airplane wings. How effective is this method? A surface the size of a regular car’s roof could produce enough energy to power three 100-watt light bulbs, or 24 compact fluorescents.

Concessioners in parks with water recreation opportunities should be familiar with, and, as appropriate, support efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Not only will the sprayLD system make it easier to implement solar energy, but it is also more cost effective. The process is similar to printing a newspaper: just as ink is applied to a roll of paper, manufacturers spray liquid containing CQDs directly on flexible surfaces. The sprayLD system uses parts that are readily available and affordable, making solar energy more accessible across the board.

So, as your concessions operation seeks alternatives to traditional energy sources, remain creative, and keep sprayLD on your list of ideas. Remember how Solar Gardens are on our horizon? SprayLD may work in tandem with these gardens, and make solar a more viable option in our natural areas. There is still much work to be done in perfecting the process, but Kramer’s success to date indicates a brighter future for solar.