Designing with the Sun is a KIEM-GoCI explorative research project on the theme Energy Transition and Sustainability. The project is aimed at network and agenda building and design research that explores new (cultural) practices of renewable energy consumption, based on a shift from ‘energy blindness’ to ‘energy awareness’. 

Up until now the solar industry has been propelled forward by technical innovations, offering mostly pragmatic, economic benefits to consumers. Innovation in this field mostly concerns making solar panels more efficient and less costly. 

However, to succeed, the energy transition also needs new cultural practices. These practices should reflect the ways renewables are different from fossil fuels. For solar, this means using more direct solar energy, when the sun is there, and being able to adapt to periods of low energy. Currently, consumers are mostly ‘blind’ to the infrastructure behind fossil-based energy. However, for energy sources such as solar and wind ‘awareness’ of their availability becomes more important. What could such an awareness look or feel like? How can it be enacted? And how can a change in practice that is more attuned to availability be experienced positively?  

Solar companies see opportunities in using design to help build motivating practices and narratives within the solar field, enabling awareness through personal relationships between consumer and solar energy. However, the knowledge of how to get there is lacking.  

In a research-through-design trajectory, and together with partners from the Creative Industries, Designing with the Sun aims to explore new ways of relating citizens to solar energy. Ultimately, these insights should enable the newly emerging field of solar design to contribute to the emergence of more sustainable and rewarding energy awareness and practices.