Alfresco umbrellas shield us from the sun’s rays, so why don’t they also absorb rays so we can power our electronics off the grid? That’s the thinking behind the Powerbrella, a solar-powered umbrella in development from SkyShades and solar plastic producer Konarka Technologies.
The Powerbrella, designed for use in cafes, hotel swimming pools, and restaurants, captures solar energy with Konarka’s Power Plastic–a proprietary lightweight, flexible film. The umbrella’s stem stores power and contains outlets for on-site recharging. Konarka’s Power Plastic is weatherproof, so there’s no need to worry if a sudden bout of rain hits the umbrella.
Skyshades and Konarka tested the Powerbrella throughout 2008 at Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando, Florida. Physics students measured its effectiveness at withstanding the elements, generating power, and storing energy. The results were promising enough that Skyshades plans on releasing the Powerbrella this July.
In the future, Skyshades hopes to use Power Plastic in car washes, stadiums, amphitheaters, and retrofitted roofs. Power Plastic is produced using low-cot inkjet printers, so future Skyshades products made with the technology will be relatively cheap.