22 Mar 2011


While researching sustainable methods of lighting for use in my studio project, a site which is on the river & has a dock in the centre of it (see Millenium Mills post for details), I came across this new tidal powered lighting system - FLOWLIGHT

Tidal power is not widely used currently, mainly because it is less powerful/takes longer to produce the same quantities of electricity as other more conventional sources. However, it is believed that in the future it will be used far more when other resources run out or provide too much damage to our planet. Water produces a lot of energy within itself, through waves & tides, Irish designer Shane Molloy has looked into this further & come up with a sustainable lighting system. Energy is generated from the flow of a tidal river, which is converted into electricity, which in turn illuminates the lights, using only renewable energy. The first Flowlights have been used to illuminate the dockside of the River Suir in Ireland.

The lights have an outer shell made from carbon fibre, within this is the bespokely designed water turbine blades. The blades of the turbine are designed so that they can operate both clockwise & counterclockwise, enabling them to generate power with the flow of the river at high & low tides. The lighting systems have been developed to react to the levels of water in the river with a 'Tidal Drop Extension Arm', which is constantly altering itself, extending & contracting to keep the turbine at an ideal depth in the water.

The mechanical energy created by the turbines is converted into electrical power, which is then stored in a battery unit within the system. They have built in light sensors which will turn the LED lighting strips on when the natural night fades.

This lighting scheme seems to be a suitable method of lighting many riverside/dockside/waterfronted public areas which are wishing to illuminate the walkways. Sustainable alternatives are obviously well researched in most designs today, due to the high awareness of the state of the planet & its resources. This lighting would definately be a system I would consider when designing the waterfront jetty in my studio design. As these images show they look reasonably attractive & are quite low key & minimal, it would be unlikely that alterations to the style & aethestics of the structure would alter the effectiveness of the energy generator, & so this could be changed to suit specific sites or design styles.

All images courtesy of The Design Blog

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