The smart umbrella: it produces energy and becomes sustainable

In the beach of the future there could be umbrellas with photovoltaic panels that convert light into energy. Installed in Italy the first prototypes of the green oasis of relaxation

The beach of the future will be increasingly sustainable and green. With this in mind, special umbrellas have been created that, thanks to photovoltaic panels placed on their surface, are able to convert sunlight into electricity. The project has been realized by the international studio "CRA Carlo Ratti Associati", developed in collaboration with the architect Italo Rota and the engineer Chuck Hoberman. Objective?

The project of umbrellas with photovoltaic panels

The idea behind the innovative umbrellas is to create an oasis of relaxation with devices that on the one hand protect people from UV rays and on the other can exploit the sun's rays to power objects such as refrigerators or electronic media. The photovoltaic panels installed on the parasols transform sunlight into electricity, while the parasols have been designed to be aggregated to create a "smart grid" of eleven modules that can also power a large ice cream fridge. These special parasols allow people to ensure moments of coolness while enjoying, for example, cold drinks, or to be able to recharge their smartphones or other electronic devices.

The first eleven prototypes of smart parasols will be installed, from June to August 2021, at Bam, the Library of Trees in Milan, to be tested under the sun. Their supporting structure is made of aluminum tubes with good resistance even to wind and, once opened, they would give shade and energy to an area of 3.2 meters. Carlo Ratti Associati explained that the results of the first tests have shown that an umbrella, in stable conditions, can produce from 500 to 600 watts.

The foldable structure was developed in collaboration with Chuck Hoberman, a professor at Harvard University, and is inspired by the photovoltaic systems of NASA spacecraft. From what we read in the project's press kit, the prototypes will be on display from June 12 to August 8, 2021 at BAM-Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano Park, an initiative of the Riccardo Catella Foundation. A lounge area will be created that the public can access for free, and the Milan test will serve precisely as a first step in assessing how the innovation process could accelerate and potentially be brought to the entire Italian coast, promoting a more sustainable approach to summer leisure.

To power entire cities, however, Australian researchers are considering installing solar panels on airport rooftops.