IDEA & OPPORTUNITY > Solar power vending machines

Vending machines can be found just about everywhere, except, maybe, where they're needed most-tucked away on a remote beach or at the end of a gruelling golf-course hole. An Anglo-Spanish firm has come up with a solution: an off-the-grid, solar-powered vending machine that can be placed anywhere there's adequate sunlight. In the process, Solar Energy Vending has greatly expanded the locations that can be served by an industry that matured decades ago. A big challenge for SEV was developing a refrigeration system strong enough to keep the machine's food and drinks cool, while powered solely by the sun. Solar panels on top keep the machine's refrigerator running, and a rechargeable battery provides power at night or during prolonged cloudy periods. A wind turbine can substitute for solar cells in less sunny climes, where hot beverages could make the vending dispensers a popular stop-off along ski runs.

The company has been working on the concept since 2004. At last word machines have been placed at locations throughout Spain and on at least one golf course in the UK, and SEV is currently seeking inquiries from potential distribution partners in other countries. Besides revenue from sales of food and drinks, the machines are also equipped to display advertising. SEV's website touts what could be another major enticement for machine purchasers, at least in Europe, saying EEC regulations waive income taxes on profits from the machines since they rely on renewable energy.

SEV's vending machines join a growing number of devices that can be placed just about anywhere, thanks to their reliance on solar energy. Lighted road signs and emergency phones are two other examples. For entrepreneurs and inventors the vending machines illustrate how any common device can be retrofitted for solar and placed in out-of-the-way locations.



Spotted by: Bjarke Svendsen
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