World's first park with interactive lighting through plant power

Rotterdam is the first city worldwide to realize a park with interactive lighting powered by plants: The Park of Tommorow. Imagine yourself walking through the park late at night, you are surrounded by enchanting lights that respond to your presence. This park became reality in Rotterdam on the 18th of November.

The city of Rotterdam collaborated with Plant-e and designer Ermi van Oers (Nova Innova) to create an interactive green area in one of Rotterdam’s neighborhoods: Reyeroord (Rotterdam-IJsselmonde). The electricity producing plants in the park respond to the presence of pedestrians. The electricity produced by the plants is used to prompt little lights to start twinkling when pedestrians pass by.

Focus on residents' wishes and dreams

Residents of Reyeroord had a voice on everything, from the plants to the benches, in designing the green area. The interactive green area is one of the innovative projects in the ‘IJselmondse’ Neighborhood. Councilor of outdoor spaces, integration and society, Bert Wijbenga: “We chose an approach that focusses on residents’ wishes and dreams in Reyeroord. This is where large city level developments get implemented in neighborhoods. From energy transition, climate adaptation and poverty reduction to introducing the environmental code. This shows Reyeroord as an example for the future”.

‘The Park of Tomorrow’: where science and design meet 

Living plants that produce electricity: it sounds futuristic, but it’s already happening! All plants photosynthesize. Through photosynthesis sugars are produced that the plant uses for growth. Some of these sugars are not used by the plants and are excreted into the soil through the plant’s root system. In the soil around the roots bacteria breakdown the access sugars secreted by the plant. During this process, the bacteria release electrons as a waste product. Plant-e found a method to harvest the electrons and use them for electricity. In fact, green electricity is redefined: during production of electrons, CO2 is captured in the plants, resulting in CO2 negative electricity production! This technology can be used anywhere in the world, the only prerequisite is that the plants live in wet soil.

Marjolein Helder, CEO of Plant-e: “In the city of the future, it becomes increasingly important to keep climate change into account. The surface area available for necessary measures is however, extremely limited. Plant-e links climate friendly measures such as stormwater mitigation, greening and reduction of local temperature, to city lighting and social safety.”

Plant-e and designer Ermi van Oers realized the importance of combining nature, science and design and decided to collaborate. Ermi van Oers and her team are developing a new way to apply, and increase the visibility of green energy. The results are truly magical. The plant powered park notices your presence, causing the lights all around you to start glowing. Designer Ermi van Oers: “In addition to the fact that this technology is extremely high-tech, it is also very poetic. The energy comes to life, which brings humans and nature closer together. You can feel that the lighting is alive when you take a walk through the green area after dark, which reignites your wonder about the force of nature.”

Investing in innovative projects

The Park of Tomorrow is a means for the municipality Rotterdam, Plant-e and Ermi van Oers to stimulate the use of more greenery in urban areas and to create a stronger connection between people and their surroundings. Nature should become an inspiring experience for passers-by. Councilor Bert Wijbenga: “investing in innovation is important. If plants are really a feasible option as future power source is yet to be determined, but with this project, we are getting a head start. The light might not work all the time”, the councilor emphasizes. “Nature won’t be rushed; if the bacteria are not growing fast enough or the weather is bad, the lights might not work. Monitoring this is part of the experience.”

Grow and boot-up

The Park of Tomorrow needs time to grow and boot-up. During spring 2020 the Park of Tomorrow should be a stunning fairytale road. The green area is located in a part of the Heemtuin in Reyeroord, between de Korendijk en de Pelgrimskerk.