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Access to athletics and informal play space is a primary component of a livable, active, healthy city. With rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and asthma continuing to rise in our city, there is a dire need for additional access to athletic and recreational sport spaces for children and teens throughout New York City. Most simply put, there is not enough field and indoor court time to accommodate the many organized sports teams, schools, and recreational organizations in New York. More specifically, conversations with after school programs, school athletic groups, and other athletic organizations suggest there is a shortage of lighted athletic fields. Many of these programs operate at the end of the typical school or work day. As a result, they all need space at the exact same time, between 3pm and 10pm each evening.


Though it is often difficult for these schools and non-profit organizations to raise funds for capital construction costs, the greater issue for most of these groups is the cost to operate and maintain any capital improvement (a new soccer field, basketball court, or athletic lights) for years to come. In many cases, a philanthropic gift in the current year can burden these organizations with years of facilities and maintenance costs, essentially taking away crucial annual operating funds from their programming budgets.

How might we provide additional access to sports throughout the city without burdening these organizations, or the City, with long term operational costs?


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One of eight international finalists for last year’s Philips Livable Cities Award, the Smart Grid Athletic Light project proposes to increase the number of usable hours for existing athletic fields in New York City while offsetting — either completely or in part – the energy and maintenance costs for lighting these fields. Utilizing “smart grid” technologies, the project’s light modules would sell wind and solar-generated power back to the electrical grid throughout the day to offset the energy needs for lighting the athletic fields each night. As the efficiencies of these energy-production technologies continue to improve, might it be possible that infrastructural improvements, such as these lights, might sell enough power back to the grid to offset the costs of the athletic programs that use these fields?

The project team is currently pursuing funding to continue research, development, and prototyping for the Smart Grid Athletic Light.

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Smart Grid Athletic Light featured in