Solar ‘Ray’ of hope in battle against energy poverty

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Solar-powered sculpture to light up Vivid festival in Sydney and highlight solar-powered solutions to energy poverty in India.

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Pollinate Energy is all about shining a light. The Australian founded not-for-profit clean energy company last year won an award from the UN’s Momentum for Change program for helping slum-dwellers in India replace expensive and highly polluting kerosene lamps with cheaper solar energy.

The company focuses on training members of the local community to distribute and install solar lighting systems as micro-entrepreneurs, or “Pollinators.” So far, it has provided solar systems to 10,000 housholds in 250 of Bangalore’s slum communities, in turn saving 40,000 litres of kerosene and 100,000 kilograms of carbon emissions.

But Pollinate’s latest solar lighting project has a less functional purpose… It also has a name: Ray. Ray, as the company notes on its website, “is a light sculpture powered by the sun, hanging out at Sydney Harbour” as part of the four-week Vivid Light 2014 event.

Created by Pollinate in conjunction with Southern Cross University, the seven metre tall installation is made up of strips of multi-coloured light connecting to a base. The idea is that passers-by can pull on Ray’s vines (located in charging pods), resulting in coloured light shooting towards the top of the sculpture. This action will gradually fully charge Ray, at which point he will “overflow in a surge of sound, light and colour.”

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Designer’s vision of solar Ray at Vivid at night

For Pollinate, this project embodies the company’s vision of positive change through sustainable and renewable energy.

“He was born out of our willingness to showcase our progress so far, and a metaphorical touch to the impact one light can have on an entire family living in energy poverty,” it says.

For the team at Southern Cross University, led by Barry Hill, creator of SCU’s Sunflower solar generator, it is a chance to test the technology – which is still in development, but has been used successfully to power stages at music festivals such as Bluesfest and Womex Brisbane, and at the Byron Bay Writers Festival – in a new and very different way.

“Ray has meant that we can showcase how we are making the Sunflower generator highly interactive,” said Dr Hill on the Pollinate website.

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SCU’s Dr Barry Hill taking students through the inner workings of the Sunflower rig

“It is a project that has allowed us to test a new data communication system that we have designed to allow solar generator data to be used in the creation of audio visual works. In a sense we are making the Sunflower generator into a musical instrument by using the data gathered from the power generation and discharge cycle to send data to the Hi Ray website and control aspects of the graphic design and audio soundscape.”

Most importantly, he added, “the Ray project is one that shows that renewable energy is a great solution for marginalised communities all over the world that have no access to any safe power source and this impacts on their ability to live, communicate and survive in the 21st Century.”

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