Greenbang is very much down with the whole microgeneration thing. If Greenbang had her way, all outdoors workers, from tree surgeons to traffic wardens, would have to wear personal solar panels contained in big Pat Butcher style earrings and then milked for the energy they created at the end of every day like some uniformed electricity cow.
While Greenbang dreams of photovoltaic jewellery, others are working on solar paneled curtains. Others being Sheila Kennedy,
visiting MIT lecturing and principal architect at Boston firm, Kennedy & Violich Architecture where she’s the design director of its materials research group, KVA Matx.
Kennedy creates solar textiles: flexible solar panel-like materials that can turn up in everyday homes and offices.
Kennedy uses 3-D modeling software to design with solar textiles, generating membrane-like surfaces that can become energy-efficient cladding for roofs or walls. Solar textiles may also be draped like curtains.
Like curtains? Greenbang is enchanted.
Kennedy, for her part, will pursue her research in pushing the envelope of energy-efficiency and architecture. A recent project, “Soft House,” exhibited at the Vitra Design Museum in Essen, Germany, illustrates what Kennedy means when she says the boundaries between walls and utilities are changing.
For Soft House, Kennedy transformed household curtains into mobile, flexible energy-harvesting surfaces with integrated solid-state lighting. Soft House curtains move to follow the sun and can generate up to 16,000 watt-hours of electricity–more than half the daily power needs of an average American household.
Although full-scale Soft House prototypes were successfully developed, the project points to a challenge energy innovators and other inventors face, Kennedy says. “Emerging technologies tend to under-perform compared with dominant mainstream technologies.”
For example, organic photovoltaics (OPV), an emergent solar nano-technology used by the Soft House design team, are currently less efficient than glass-based solar technologies, Kennedy says.
But that lower efficiency needn’t be an insurmountable roadblock to the marketplace, Kennedy says, because Soft House provides an actual application of the unique material advantages of solar nano-technologies without having to compete with the centralized grid.