We've been a fan of Brooklyn-based SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) since we first saw their modular and beautiful wind-powered solar panels, GROW at MoMA's Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit back in '08. They recently launched a new product, Tensile Solar, weatherproof and structurally reinforced photovoltaic modules that act almost like a fabric that can not only protect, but power.
Designing with adaptation in mind, each photovoltaic module is an interchangeable part of the membrane structure; modules can easily be replaced without affecting the entire system. As SMIT explains on their website:
Tensile Solar is a system designed with the rapid evolution of photovoltaic technology in mind. As PV industry leaders roll out new and more efficient thin film solar panels, Tensile Solar can seamlessly integrate the latest technology. Tensile Solar can meet the financial, environmental and aesthetic demands of a wide range of projects by utilizing solar technologies with different characteristics. Organic PV is the first type of photovoltaic to be free of toxins and completely recyclable. Amorphous silicon can reach its peak performance in cloudy conditions. CIGS performs well in low light and is currently the most efficient thin film technology in direct sunlight.
The above video is a visualization of environmental analysis driving Tensile Solar's design process.
Most exciting about the structures are the architectural applications and what a new project like this might say about public spaces of the future. Imagine parking your electric car under Tensile Solar and getting a recharge while you're sitting in the shade. Or powering a boombox under the shade of your beach umbrella made with Tensile Solar. Brilliant.