A solar-power toilet would cost about $200 and can produce about 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity, said David L. Schmitz, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.
That’s a little less than half of what it would cost to run a conventional toilet.
He said the efficiency of solar panels on rooftops, coupled with the cost of inverters to run the panels, could make it more affordable.
“The solar panel is not as cheap as the inverter, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
Schmetz and his team have been testing a prototype in Pennsylvania.
But it is still early days, and there are still plenty of technical and manufacturing hurdles to overcome before the technology can be commercially viable, he said in an interview.
So far, Schmetze’s prototype is working only when the sun is shining, so the team has not set any firm goals for its solar-toilet system.
“I think we’re still a long way from a solar system that produces electricity at the same cost as a conventional one,” he told The Washington Times.
But he said he thinks the solar energy system would be much cheaper than a conventional system.
The system is designed to work in daylight and run on a sunny day when the temperature is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, he added.
The team is also testing a version with two solar panels to power a home, so it can power other needs such as heating and lighting.
“This is the beginning of something that is going to take us a long time to get to where we want to be,” SchmetZ said.
But the system will require a lot of expensive hardware and equipment to make it work.
“It’s not going to be cheap,” Schmitzer said.
“But it will be effective.”
He said that although the solar panels would not be as efficient as a traditional toilet, the solar-generated energy could be enough to power the system for a few months.
Schmittez also said the solar panel could be installed in a home without any major maintenance, such as removing it.
That would allow the system to be used when the solar system is turned off, for example, or when the homeowner turns off the light.
A home would have to be in a specific area, such a a rural area.
Schmeets said the system could be adapted to fit a lot more homes.
“In the short term, it could be really inexpensive,” he added, adding that he expects to see the system used in homes by mid-century.
The solar energy toilet prototype has been tested by Schmetzer and his colleagues at the School of Engineering and Applied Science in Pennsburg, and they plan to continue to work on the technology.
Schmelts company, Solar Energy Light, was founded by Schmettz and fellow engineers in 2016.
Solar Energy PLC is an investment arm of Swiss company SolarCity Corp., which also owns the utility-scale solar power company Solar City USA.
SolarCity USA is based in New York and operates more than 1,000 solar energy systems across the country.