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Smart Grid Athletic Lights

Hybrid-powered lighting potentially saves cities cash and energy

by Greg Stefano in Tech on 31 March 2011

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A finalist in the Philip's Livable Cities Awards, Andrew Burdick's "Smart Athletic Grid Light" prototype has enormous potential to prove how urban development and sustainable design can work together. In association with Ennead, the idea was seeded during conversations with schools and extracurricular groups that were in need of more athletic space in New York City. Burdick realized that the issue wasn't actually space but usage, with most teams needing the space at the same times. His Smart Athletic lights aim to increase the amount of usable time the community can get from a playing field, while minimizing the impact on the environment and the city's wallet.

Burdick's design combines a variety of technologies and features suited to the New York City landscape. The lights use both wind and solar power; in each case the electricity gathering element is customizable to suit the location. If placed in an area where wind is more prominent, the wind turbine on the lights can be raised or lowered for ideal energy production. In the same manner, solar panels can easily be rotated to achieve the highest exposure to sunlight in sunny areas. Ideally, using both these technologies, the lights could produce enough energy to illuminate the playing field but also offset their own maintenance, upkeep and installation costs.

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The focus of the concept is to create technologies for public space that can operate off the grid or create a smart grid. Cost effective by nature, off-the-grid streetlights have been proven in other parts of NYC, but Burdick's project faced larger challenges—athletic spaces require much more light than the sidewalk. Designed from the ground up with these issues in mind, his modular system shows great promise and, if awarded the grant from Philips, a functional prototype could prove the usefulness of smart grid technologies for urban and suburban environments.

As part of a greater push to make cities and communities more environmentally and fiscally effective, Burdick's prototype is a bright idea. Dubbing his project "Sustainable Philanthropy," Burdick explains "by this term, I do not mean this project is simply 'green;' rather, it is a project that uses environmentally sustainable technologies to pay for its own maintenance and upkeep, thus being a gift to the community in perpetuity." Economic and sustainability issues should always play a part in the design process, but the recent rise in environmental consciousness and subsequent economic decline make these points exceptionally poignant.

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