Back in 2010, we reported on an attempt to cross the United Arab Emirates in a solar-powered wheelchair. In that situation, the wheelchair was directly powered by the sun via solar panels installed on the chair.*
Kyocera Corporation has announced its solar panels were used in a project for powering the wheelchairs of those living at Quimby Huus, a facility for the disabled in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The project was awarded the 2012 Swiss Solar Prize.
Instead of the solar panels being attached to the chairs, a 3kW solar power system was installed on the roof of the facility, generating 3,000kWh of clean electricity each year which is used to charge the residents’ chairs.
Enough electricity is generated by the system to allow each resident to travel approximately 1,500km per year.
An energy meter has also been installed at the facility so residents know how much energy has been consumed, which Kyocera says increases their awareness of energy consumption and offers additional potential for conservation.
The project was led by Sandro Buff, who has been using a wheelchair for 16 years.
The Swiss Solar Agency was founded in 1990 and launched the Swiss Solar Prize in 1991, which has been awarded annually since. Other recipients of the 2012 Swiss Solar Prize can be viewed here.
Solar power already offers an affordable way to charge small electric vehicles other than wheelchairs. Increasingly, solar panels are being used to recharge gophers and golf buggies.
* We didn’t publish a follow up to the original story, but we’re pleased to say the journey across by United Arab Emirates was successfully completed by Mr. Haidar Taleb in December 2010.