Today’s Solutions: April 14, 2024

Given how much time parasols on coastal beaches sit under the sun, wouldn’t it make sense to replace the thick fabric they’re made of with solar panels — and maybe even use some of the energy generated to power, let’s say, beachfront ice-cream freezers? Italy’s leading gelato and frozen desserts brand think it makes perfect sense. That’s why it partnered with a couple of design firms to develop a solar umbrella.

To create the innovative device, the ice-cream maker Sammontana collaborated with the international design and innovation firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and architect Italo Rota. Inspired by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the project is the result of the brand’s recent efforts to ramp up its sustainability.

“The project builds on Sammontana’s objective to lower the environmental impact potentially applicable to Italian beaches — which are the iconic backdrops where Sammontana is served, marking the most pleasant and joyful moments of summer,” says Sibilla Bagnoli, the company’s Head of Communication and Image.

Featuring an aesthetically pleasing design, the umbrella boasts a system of unfolding photovoltaic arrays, which were designed by Harvard University professor Chuck Hoberman, who has spent most of this career developing transformable structures. The resulting design is based on that the solar panels adorning NASA’s spacecraft.

About the same size as a regular parasol, the origami-style umbrella is very energy efficient, as it can be adjusted for the best sun exposure. As reported by Inhabitat, the power generated by the structure is then used for refrigeration and cooling in the form of mini-fridges filled with cold drinks or gelatos. By linking several umbrellas together, it’s also possible to generate enough electricity to power more energy-hungry facilities on beachfront resorts, making beachgoers’ holiday experience more sustainable.

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