Solar beach umbrella design cools you… and your gelato


A fold-out solar umbrella design that was inspired in part by NASA spacecraft and in part by origami could bring clean energy to beachfront resorts for July 4th and beyond.

Dubbed the Parelio for Sammontana, the design is a collaboration between innovation firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA), architect Italo Rota, and gelato-maker Sammontana. 

The deployed position folds out, providing shade and power.

Image: Carlo Ratti Associati

The fold-out array is meant to be deployed in the sun, shading beachgoers and generating PV energy that feeds attachable nebulizers and coolers underneath. This provides a way to keep the beachgoer, their drinks, and Italian ice cream cool on a hot summer’s day. 

The project was supported by “transformable design” proponent professor Chuck Hoberman of Harvard, who worked with Italo Rota and MIT professor Carlo Ratti on the design. The modular system means that multiple umbrellas can be strung together, leaving it up to resorts to be creative with how they integrate the technology.  

The umbrella is 8.2 feet high, has a 10.5-foot diameter, and includes panels over the entire top. A prototype is on display in the Porta Nuova district of Milan, Italy from June 12th to August 8th.

The solar umbrella is one of many ways designers are finding ways to integrate pv technology in unlikely spaces, like windows and blinds.

The closed position allows the device to be moved.

Image: Carlo Ratti Associati

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