These Origami Solar Panels Generate Electricity for Apartments

Solgami wants to help people living in cities.

A new design of solar panel could help apartment dwellers harvest electricity from their windows without prohibitive installation costs. Solgami, designed by Australian architect Ben Berwick, is a window blind that generates power while bouncing more light into the room using a folded origami design.

“It’s a bit of a reconnection to the natural setting,” Berwick, who founded architecture firm Prevalent, told Fast Company* this weekend. “It’s making your apartment a better place to be.”

The design combines thin film solar cells with reflective inks. It’s folded into a shape measuring 10 centimeters (under four inches) deep so that it bounces light into the room, meaning natural light reaches broader areas of the space. It can switch between open and closed, meaning it acts as a replacement for blinds, while also folding back for complete window access. The design has undergone several iterations since its first unveiling in 2015.

It’s an idea that could help millions of people living in apartment buildings. Around 54 percent of the global population lived in an urban area in 2014, a figure set to rise to 66 percent by 2050. While the Tesla Solar Roof and similar panels can help homeowners harvest clean energy, Berwick’s solution could help the majority of the world take advantage of similar technologies.

Prevalent's design in action.
Prevalent's design in action.

The project is also aimed at offering a simpler solution for city-based solar generation, compared to invasive measures like special solar windows. SolarWindow, a company developing such a solution, noted that a 50-storey building generating energy through this solution could generate up to 50 times more power compared to placing roof panels on the same building.

Berwick’s design was chosen as a finalist for the 2019 Lexus Design Awards at the end of last month, meaning it will now receive support from the car firm to create a prototype in time for the Milan Design Week in April. The entry was one of six chosen from 1,548 entries, with other finalists including a turbine that harvests aircraft jet blasts for electricity and a modular house design. Four experts will chose the eventual winner on April 8.

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Media via Prevalent, Cochin Airport