We all know that protecting the environment has shifted from a nice-to-do to a must-do. One of the most promising, but still mostly unexplored, frontiers is green energy. As the world finds new ways to harvest nature to create power, it's inevitable that designers and engineers will find increasingly innovative ways to mix this technology into our lives.

Created by Australian design firm Büro North in partnership with the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, the VEIL Solar Shades do more than just transfer sunlight into energy. They also, thankfully, look really damn cool. Unlike old skool solar panels, the shades have an organic, natural sloping design. The pattern across the top looks like the veins of a leaf, harkening to the photosynthesis that solar collection is modeled after. Partially funded by the Aussie government, the VEILs are designed for schoolyards where they have the practical benefit of shading tykes from the hot sun.

The shades are also meant to actively engage both kids and adults in their operation: markings on the base show which positions are best to get maximum energy collection at different times of the day, and they are lightweight enough for a child to adjust. Underneath the awning, an LED feedback system shows whether the shades are getting enough sunlight. A pattern of indicator lights glows green if the shade is getting enough power, but turns red if the shades need to be re-positioned. Brilliant.