Photovoltaic cells made from organic polymers, rather than crystalline silicon, could make solar power much cheaper. Last year Konarka, a startup based in Lowell, MA, opened a factory for such solar panels, which are flexible and produced in a process akin to printing (see “Mass Production of Plastic Solar Cells”). The first application of Konarka’s potentially transformative technology? Umbrellas. SkyShades, based in Orlando, FL, is incorporating the panels into umbrellas designed for outdoor seating areas in places like restaurants and bars. Patrons can recharge mobile devices such as laptops and cell phones from outlets built into the stem of the umbrella. The four-meter-wide Powerbrella can generate up to 128 watts of electricity, which charges a bank of batteries located in its base.
Companies: Konarka, SkyShades
Subscribe to Continue Reading
Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.
$179.95/yr US PRICE
Will ARPA-E Survive Trump’s Looming Budget Cuts?
At what may be the agency’s final summit, speakers and attendees argue that federal support for energy research is critical for job creation.
The EPA Is Bracing for Big Change
An unfavorable Trump budget and promises of “aggressive” regulation rollbacks could leave the agency a shadow of its former self.
Nuclear Energy Startup Transatomic Backtracks on Key Promises
The company, backed by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, revised inflated assertions about its advanced reactor design after growing concerns prompted an MIT review.