“How can we do something to make the streets more beautiful?” asks Line Daems, co-president of the Hope Street Merchants Association (HSMA).
Their answer: Install locally designed solar powered street lamps. On November 18, co-presidents of the HSMA, Line Daems and Pernilla Frazier, and Jonathan Harris, responsible for the design of the lamps, spoke to an intimate gathering of about 20 people, including Mayor Elorza, about their newest project: “Off-Grid on Hope Street.”
The lights will be about two feet large and circular, with the solar panel creating a south-facing slant through the top of the bulbs. The poles of the lamps will be approximately 12 feet high and can be spun by hand, with small slits up and down them through which you can see artwork on the inside of the base of the poles. The idea behind the design was to incorporate the solar panels in a way so that they are an integral part of the visual appeal of the lamp, instead of distracting from it. They originally collected design suggestions and proposals from students at Johnson & Wales University, which were then narrowed down by a committee, with Harris being responsible for the final design of the lights.
The lamps are not intended to be fully functional street lamps that will replace the city lamps, but have the sole purpose of being decorative, creating ambient mood lighting for the streets in addition to the regular street lights. The project is “emblematic of what our neighborhood stands for,” says Frazier. The HSMA will own the lights as an organization and be responsible for installation and maintenance, but will work in partnership with the city to ensure compliance with any city rules and ordinances.
During the presentation, an audience member pointed out that Hope Street will not actually be “off the grid,” as they will continue using the same amount of electricity for the regular city lights. The solar power will be used to charge batteries in the light, which are able to store enough charge to last five days without additional charge. So, even in Providence’s most gloomy rainy season, as long as there is a good sunny day once every five days, the lights should continue working.
Now, the HSMA are looking to raise $150,000 for the project, which would pay the artist and fund the creation and maintenance of the lights. Initial money will go toward constructing a prototype to work out any problems and demonstrate the idea to potential funders. In seeking sponsorship, they are hoping that the Miriam Hospital will be a potential sponsor, as they previously supported HSMA projects. They are also hoping for support and sponsorship from the City of Providence, local solar power companies, Governor Gina Raimondo’s office and will be looking into any grants that may be available. They say they are confident they will get the money together.