Marjan van Aubel maximises solar power for growing food

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By now, most of us are aware that the problems of current and future food production and energy consumption converge in an imminent crisis. How can we transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy production? One of the alternatives is solar power, but this solution comes with its own constraints, which include surplus energy storage, the toxic chemicals needed in solar panel production, and the lack of funding for developing the technology further. Food is another point of concern, with projected population growth running in parallel to diminishing arable land. We are in quite a pickle, and the more creative and equitable alternatives to the status quo we can think up, the better.

While art or design can‘t “save the world,” they can offer tentative possibilities and potent maybes. Marjan van Aubel has been contributing to finding alternatives to harvesting solar energy, on a small scale, for several years. We featured her Current Table and Current Window three years ago. Since then, Abel has collaborated with Peter Krige on Current Table 2.0, won the Designer of The Future 2017 Award at Design Miami for Cyanometer, a design that enhances solar panels via Swarovski crystals, and help envision a Power Plant.

This Power Plant, developed in collaboration with The New Institute, architect Emma Elston, researcher Yasmine Ostendorf, Physee and University of Amsterdam, is a greenhouse that generates its own solar power. The power helps run a hydroponic system that saves up to 90% of water compared to traditional farming. This is an upscaled iteration of the key concept behind Marjan van Abel’s ingenious Current Window. Power Plant utilises sun energy to its utmost potential: the sun heats up the hot-house through glass, it charges the solar panels, and enables life giving photosynthesis that feeds the plants inside. Find out more on the project here.