11/28/2011 05:53

Designer campaigning to fund wind-powered urban lighting.
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For sustainable designer Adital Ela, lighting up a park at night is as simple as playing with a child’s pinwheel toy out in the wind.

Ela, founder and CEO of SSENSE DESIGN, has launched a Kickstarter online fund-raising campaign to finance the test phase of her invention, WindyLight, “a collection of self-sufficient outdoor lights that perform on free, clean energy, designed to let soft gusts of wind in the urban environment blow light into our world,” according to the project mission.

Completely isolated from the national electricity grid, the standalone devices are powered by small pinwheel mechanisms that collect urban wind energy and transform it into electrical current, which in turn illuminates LED lights on the flaps of the pinwheels. During less winy periods of the night, the lights are able to access energy stored from windier daytime periods.

“I saw all these kinds of big projects being done all around, with harvesting wind the middle of the sea and on top of mountains,” Ela said Sunday. “But when you walk in the city you can see the wind is there, and most of us live in the cities today. So how about asking how we can connect to the lower winds that are in the city?” The same way urban buildings are able to sport solar panels to harness the sun’s light in small increments, Ela said she felt tiny wind turbines should be able to do the same with city air.

“It’s really about being more creative and more open in our thinking,” she said.

“Slowly, it came into this idea of breaking it down into smaller modules that work on a much lower energy.”

Ela started out with a $25,000 grant from AOLartists as well as the support of the international TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) fellows team, of which she is a member, but she realized this would certainly not be enough to launch a pilot phase of the project in Israel’s cities.

After approaching various corporate investors, she began to feel that going with commercial financing would undermine her “social-environmental vision, she said. So she launched a Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of November, asking the public to contribute $65,000 by December 31, which she will only receive if she achieves that number in full.

“It’s been really exciting – there’s been a lot of interest, a lot of interest different from what I expected,” she said, noting that a lot of people have been offering to form collaborations and do projects together.

As of Sunday, the project has achieved a total of $18,036 from 99 backers, according to the Kickstarter campaign site.

Ela has designed a wide range of models, from single glowing pinwheels on rods planted in the ground, to spherical collections of small illuminated pinwheels hanging from an awning.

“The whole concept of this project is that you develop one piece that you can multiply into different shapes,” she said. “This is why it’s rather easy to develop.”

Once she has the funds necessary, Ela will launch a pilot phase in cooperation with interested cities, and will likely test her modules in places like promenades or parks, rather than on main roads, she said. While she doesn’t yet have a specific city that she intends to start working with, she said she certainly intends to continue involving the public in her vision along the way.

“I really think this is the time to try to do things differently and openly in ways that really promote creativity,” Ela said.

For more information about Ela’s project and a link to her Kickstarter campaign site, visit