Solar photovoltaics can seem strictly utilitarian to most, especially those deeply entrenched within the solar industry. Solar Power for Artists founder, Alex Nathanson, sees it differently. He asks questions like what is the role of art and design when it comes to the clean energy transition. Having written a textbook on the history of solar power in art, Alex brings a unique perspective to his work teaching solar and making art with it. Check out this quick clip or read the transcript below to learn about some of Alex’s work. 

To hear the full conversation, you can enroll for free in Unconventional Solar Applications, where Alex and other panelists share their outside the box solar projects. 

What is the role of art and design in the energy transition? I think there’s a lot that creative practitioners can play, right? Climate change impacts every place in the world uniquely because of economics, geography, and culture. We need to tune our response to climate change and follow the lead of local communities and appreciate different types of expertise. 

I do think art and design is a really important avenue for building those capacities. 

The biggest project I’m doing at the moment is a project in its third year for the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Sustainability. This is a project called Schoolyard Solar.

It’s a series of small scale, photovoltaic-integrated furniture. This is a rolling cart. There’s also a table and a trellis system. These are both functional pieces of furniture that provide power to charge phones, power a laptop if there’s a computer, or if there’s a class happening outside.

They’re also teaching aids. So a middle school class might use the solar data to learn about graphing. A high school class might disassemble parts of it and learn about solar installation. 

It’s really this multi-functional object that’s really trying to take the professional level materials of the solar energy industry and make them much easier to be integrated into curriculum for a fairly wide age range.