Interesting Ways to Harness Solar Energy
Gentle water flow generated by solar-powered pump
To appreciate the power of the sun as an energy source, just look around your own backyard in late winter.
In my own yard in Rhode Island, snowdrops are pushing up out of the ground. The branches on the witch hazel are covered with yellow flowers. And white flower buds are emerging through the leaves of my hellebores. This despite temperatures that still fall below freezing at night and don't rise much above it during the day.
Fortunately, plants are not the only things in your garden that benefit from this awesome energy source. Today solar energy is being harnessed in a multitude of ways, and new technologies are making it much more efficient and practical.
Thanks to solar batteries that store the sun's energy, today we can buy path lights and lanterns, flashlights, pool pumps, radios, fans, showers and fountains that need no external power supply.
One of my favorite products in this category is the solar water pump. On a segment of "Cultivating Life" we used this clever little pump to make a small birdbath with running water that is perfect for any patio, small terrace or garden.
Many birds find the sight and sound of moving water irresistible. A silent birdbath may go undiscovered, but the sound of water dripping will bring wild birds to your backyard.
You don't need a large pool or a big rush of water. You can create a simple pool for birds using a solar-powered pump. This avoids the complication of running power to your garden. A solar pump isn't appropriate for a large water feature, but it's perfect for this easy-to-create bird pool.
This project is very easy, and the steps below will explain how to do it. For more details go to www.cultivatinglife.com and enter "solar birdbath" in the search field.
Materials you will need are: a shallow basin (a plant saucer works well); a small solar-powered fountain kit (available online); sandpaper (100 grit); water-resistant construction adhesive/sealant; patio slate (bluestone); clear flexible tubing; and a tube clamp.
Tools you will need include: safety goggles, a chisel and hammer, a drill and tile/glass drill bit, a utility knife, and a shovel or hand trowel.
Begin by using adhesive/sealant to fill and seal any holes in the basin. Sand the edges and inside of saucer with sandpaper. This will help the adhesive to stick.
Break the patio stones into flat, thin pieces with hammer and chisel. Arrange stone around the edge of the basin, leaving an open space for the pump mechanism. Glue the stone in place with adhesive, and let the glue dry 24 hours.
Pick one stone for the open space and drill a hole, using tile bit, large enough for the flexible tubing. Add a length of clear tubing to pump with tube clamp.
Plug in the pump and add water to basin. Run the pump tubing through hole in stone. Arrange tubing to create desired flow of water and trim excess off. Unplug pump and remove water.
Arrange additional stones to hide the pump. Arrange stones inside of the basin to hide sides and bottom. Glue the stones in place.
Once glue is dry, pick a spot for the bird pool. For the bird's sake, make sure it is a place they can perch safely, not near shrubs or bushes where predators (cats) can hide. Sink the concealed saucer slightly into the ground so the stone is at soil level. Keeping the pond in the shade will prevent evaporation and algal growth, but with a solar-powered pump you will need to be within reach of a sunny spot so you can position the solar panel.
© Tribune Media Services