What’s green and leafy and full of solar energy? If you guessed a tree, you’re right, but this tree isn’t quite like any you’ve seen before.
Solar Botanic Ltd., a London company, founded last year from an idea first conceptualized in 2002, aims to create fake plastic trees (no comment on if they received inspiration from Radiohead) that can generate real solar power. The company looks to create more attractive solar power, laying to rest complaints concerning the aesthetic shortcomings of wind turbines or traditional solar panels.
It’s worth noting that Solar Botanics is not the first to come up with the concept “solar trees” -- UC San Diego created “trees” – solar panels with trunks. However, Solar Botanics aims to take biomimicry to new heights, actually making solar-generating trees actually look like trees, complete with leaves.
The ambitious design places three power generating devices in each “nanoleaf”. In the leaf’s petioles (the stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem) rest tiny piezoelectric nanogenerators, capable of capturing the wind’s kinetic energy and transforming it into electricity. A second device, a layer in the leaf, consists of thermoelectrics to convert solar heat into electricity. Finally, a third device, a photovoltaic layer in the leaf, transforms light from the sun into electricity.
Solar Botanic claims that a single solar tree with a 20 feet (appr. 6 meter) canopy could generate enough power to satisfy the needs of an average home. Further, the company claims the tree could produce 120,000 kilowatt-hours over a two decade lifespan. The envision a scenario where city streets are lined with the trees, powering electric vehicles.
These are big claims and a bit hard to believe without seeing a finished product. However, Solar Botanic can’t be faulted on their enthusiasm and innovative approach. If they can create a production version of their solar tree at a reasonable price, they just might change the solar industry.
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