democracy is the idea that all people, regardless of where they live, should have access to solar and clean resources. One solar designer from the Netherlands, Marjan Van Aubel, feels particularly strongly about this philosophy. In her latest  Amsterdam Talk, Van Aubel details her desire to revamp the way we view solar energy and why her solar designs are helping the world to do just that. 

Right from the very beginning of her Tedx Talk back in December of 2018, Van Aubel introduces herself with humor and confidence, explaining that she works in a triad of , focusing on sustainability, technology, and overall design. In addition to sustainability and the overall technical design of , Van Aubel remarked how important efficiency is in her work and in solar design. 

During her speech, she drove home the point that the sun provides enough energy in one hour to provide the earth with one entire year of electricity. Her statistic is cited from the book ‘Solar Revolution;’ a resource that not only sparked inspiration, but action on her part in the solar community. With how much solar energy costs have dropped in recent years, her aim has been to continue to find ways to drive down solar prices and integrate solar energy resources into everyday life.  

Changing How We View Solar Energy 

Despite the increases in efficiency to solar panels and the simultaneous price drop of solar energy over the last several decades, the look of solar panels has remained the same. Right from the start of her speech, Van Aubel poses the question, “why do solar panels always have to be so ugly?”  

Solar panels have looked the same for the last 60 years and are just now receiving a much-needed makeover, thanks to designers like Van Aubel. In her effort to change the world through design, Aubel has collaborated with several other engineers and agencies to help revolutionize solar panels as we have known them for decades. 

The first agency Van Aubel has collaborated with is Swarovski, the world-renowned crystal company. For several years now, researchers have been experimenting with crystals to help enhance efficiency. If the crystals are placed in a certain way, they can bend and refocus sunlight onto solar panels. What Van Aubel has done is take advantage of this mechanism for one of her solar chandelier designs. These particular lights are powered through solar crystal technology and help to bring light produced by solar energy directly indoors. 

Practical and Beautiful Solar Designs 

In addition to her solar chandeliers, Van Aubel has also created ‘Current Table’, a table powered by a particular set of solar cells called dye-sensitized solar cells. These cells run on a process similar to that of photosynthesis, using color to make solar panels more efficient. Her Current Table comes fully equipped with light sensors that are able to gauge how much sunlight the table is receiving. True to her statements about efficiency, Van Aubel has also ensured that her solar table is outfitted with USB ports in the legs of the table so individuals can charge their smartphones and other devices. 

Another design that Van Aubel showcased during her Tedx speech was her Current Window. A modern take on stained glass, the Current Window is built with colored solar panels that, much like the Current Table, use color properties to increase solar efficiency. The Current Window also has USB ports built right into it on the window’s ledge.  

Integrating Solar Right Where it is Needed 

By bringing solar energy directly into people’s homes through window and table designs, Van Aubel is truly revolutionizing the solar energy world. Accessibility has been an important and debated topic in the solar energy community, especially in regard to the impracticality of rooftop solar panels in certain locations. Van Aubel and her designs may just offer a small glimpse into the future of solar energy, in addition to hope for those who have yet to buy into rooftop solar panels or other devices currently on the market. Bringing solar energy to everyone, everywhere may just be more realistic now, thanks to the innovative and impressive work being seen from Van Aubel and other designers in the solar community who are just as passionate. 

Resources: 

https://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/18822/Dutch-Designer-Presents-the-Future-of-Solar-Energy.aspx 

https://www.ted.com/talks/marjan_van_aubel_the_beautiful_future_of_solar_power?language=en 

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