Image source: Solar Impulse.

The solar industry is breaking records left and right these days, and it's showing the value the sun can have as an energy source for everyday items. Two of the most incredible displays right now are a bike in the U.S. and an airplane preparing to fly over the Pacific Ocean.

Solar energy has also powered a trip around the world on water. Image source: Planet Solar.

The most impressive solar record to date
Solar energy has done a lot of impressive things over the past five years -- like power a solar boat around the world -- but the most impressive has to be the current solar powered flight around the world being undertaken by Solar Impulse. The aircraft has currently completed the sixth leg of its journey, flying from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Nanjing, China, and is awaiting good weather for a five-day flight to Hawaii.  

When the remaining six legs of the trip are completed, the aircraft will land in Abu Dhabi once again, completing the first solar powered flight around the world.

Don't expect solar planes to be making their way to a runway near you anytime soon, but this shows just how good solar technology has gotten and how far it can power human endeavors.

The solar bike ride
Marissa Muller is powering a bike ride across America with solar power provided by SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) solar cells. The sun isn't providing all of the power she needs to travel across the country, but it will give her as much as a 100% boost and will power the electronics she needs along the say, something you may appreciate if you've ever been out on a bike trail with a dead phone.  

This isn't as revolutionary as flying a plane on solar energy, but it's far more practical. Today, solar products like Goal Zero, solar chargers, and solar lights can provide practical energy for everyday products through passive solar technology. These products will easily integrate into our lives and make energy easier and cleaner to use.

Ford's C-Max Solar Energi. Image source: SunPower.

Useful for more than just rooftops
Before long, solar devices will be commonplace in ways you may not even imagine. I mentioned small solar chargers as becoming more common, but Ford (NYSE: F) is also working with SunPower on a solar powered car, the C-Max Solar Energi. It won't power your car entirely, but it will give a boost that could add up to thousands of free miles of energy each year. There's no reason solar cells won't be included on every electric vehicle long-term.

We're just scratching the surface of how solar energy will be used for consumer products long-term, and a flight and bike ride powered by solar show that the possibilities are bigger than you might think. This should be a huge value adder to solar, especially the company powering all of these trips: SunPower.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.