The PowerCube: the Creation of a Pop-Up Solar Station

In communities ravaged by natural disasters, or villages developing in third world countries, the greatest challenge is always a question of how to end the power struggle. In this case, not a power struggle in the political sense, but quite literally, the struggle for electrical power. Without electricity, the resources for healthcare, for education, and sometimes even basic survival are dangerously limited, but to bring electric power to such places has been unfortunately difficult–until now, with the invention of the PowerCube.

Designed and built by Ecosphere Technologies, the PowerCube is a pop-up solar station designed to fit the sizes of three standard shipping containers. It’s self-contained, remotely monitored, and begins generating power immediately upon deployment. If inclement weather arises, the PowerCube can be folded up and stored back inside its container for protection.

The project team spent seven years on the PowerCube’s development. The final design features layered solar panels that can generate 400% more electricity than would be possible by simply covering the container’s roof in solar panels. The team is estimating an electricity output of up to 15 kilowatts, which is enough to sustain phones, electricity, Internet connections, or water treatment systems. And if electricity weren’t enough, it also dispenses water–pulled out of the air around it–and can be used as a shelter.

According to Adele Peters from Fast Company, the powercube africadesign was inspired by a suggestion from Jean-Michel Cousteau, who serves on the company’s board. “He asked us to figure out ways to bring energy, water, and communications to remote places–like a school in a village in the developing world–without the use of fossil fuels,” says [project team member Corey] McGuire. “We’re limited to the current efficiencies of solar cells,” he explains. “What we believe is that in order to bring much better systems to the developing world … you have to have more solar in a given footprint.”

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