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Why solar-powered design is set to shine

Aerial view of solar farm
Anders J/Unsplash
Oct 22, 2022 By WGSN Insider

WGSN delves into solar power, which is being explored as a solution for more sustainable design.

A triple win

Solar power provides savings on electricity usage, and is being used for consumer products as well as city-wide solutions for fighting the climate crisis.

“Integrating solar power into tech is a triple win for consumers,” says Matt Zara, Trend Forecaster and Editor at WGSN Consumer Tech. “Not only does it save the hassle of having to charge devices, it limits their spending on electricity during a cost-of-living crisis and ensures their power is coming from a clean energy source.”

And consumers are responding. Interest in solar power and solar energy is accelerating across various categories, with YouTube search indexes for both terms gaining 60ppt since 2019.

Infographic for 'solar power' and 'solar energy' search index on YouTube
Google Trends – YouTube search/WGSN Original Image

Solar-powered design

Swedish audio brand Urbanista is releasing solar-powered earbuds called Phoenix. The earbud case charges the wireless buds, giving them eight hours of power. The product follows the company’s release last year of headphones that featured a solar panel on the top of the headphone band.

Larger-scale solar design has started to show viability for widespread integration. The Colombian city of Bogotá has introduced public solar-powered community bikes this month, which charge on the bike stands.

Textiles are a burgeoning area for developments in solar power, as designers figure out how to integrate the energy-efficient model into everyday wearable use. Central Saint Martins graduate Mireille Steinhage created a solar-powered blanket that helps bridge the gap between innovation and accessibility and affordability. The blanket is made from conductive yarn and solar panels that attach to a power bank. The polyester blanket can then generate its own heat, while the attached power bank can be used to power electronics.

Mireille Steinhage’s solar-powered blanket laid over a green couch
Solar-powered blanket from Mireille Steinhage/Photographed by Maël Hénaff

How to action this

Tap into solar-powered design to help consumers cut costs on energy usage. However, scalability is difficult, as solar scientist Wim C Sinke states that solar power is only scalable if circularity of product manufacturing is introduced, where energy and materials for manufacturing solar products can be more streamlined.

Read the full Sustainability Bulletin: October 2022 for a round-up of the key sustainability happenings this month.

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