Solar Trees: All To Know About
The primary purpose of solar panel structures is to harness the sun’s energy and produce power in an eco-friendly, renewable, and efficient manner.
But did you know that, in addition to this, solar panels can also be designed in highly structured and artistic sculptures called solar trees?
Solar trees are beautiful, inspiring and are more than just power-producing structures.
By day, a solar tree collects solar energy through the leaf-like solar panels, channels it through the branch-like support structures down through the tree trunk-like pillar to a battery setup where it’s captured. At night the solar tree turns on LED lights that illuminate the place.
Do you want to learn more about what solar trees are, how they’re built, how they work, and much more?
You’ve stumbled into the right post because here, we’re going to explore all there is to know about solar trees.
What is a Solar Tree?
A solar tree is a solar structure made like a tree with leaf-like solar panels supported by steel or glass ‘branches’.
The name ‘solar tree’ stems from the structure in which the solar panels are installed the main pillar resemble a tree trunk. Also, the general structure of a solar tree looks like a real tree.
But that’s not the main reason why these trees are called solar trees.
Real trees harness the sun’s energy and use it in conjunction with minerals and water to make their own food in a process called photosynthesis. In the same way, a solar tree collects solar energy and converts it to usable electrical energy.
Please note: Although solar trees look and function almost like real trees, their purposes are distinct.
Solar trees can be installed individually or in multiples depending on the purpose. The latter is primarily for the sole purpose of creating awareness about the technology. Multiple solar trees are mainly installed if a decent amount of clean solar energy is needed from the setup.
Solar tree technology started to take shape in the late 1990s. The 7kW capacity solar tree in Gleisdorf, Austria, was one of the first solar tree projects.
Since then, solar tree projects have been commissioned in multiple areas all over the world.
Components of a Solar Tree
|Solar panels||Harness solar energy and convert it to electrical energy.|
|Pipes, arms||The platform where solar panels are connected. The arms are mainly made of glass or steel.|
|Pillar||The main system provides support for the entire solar tree framework. The vertical connections of the solar tree are also done in the pillar.|
|Solar module tilting system||Tilts the solar panels on their support arms.|
|Charge controller||Manages the power going to the batteries|
|Batteries||Stores the solar energy collected by the solar panels|
|LED lights||Illuminate the space where the solar tree is installed at night.|
|AI Photosensors||A system that turns on and off the LED lights of a solar tree at night.|
How is a Solar Tree Made?
Solar tree design starts by connecting the support pipes to the trunk-like pillar where all the cables and wires are run.
Solar panels are then connected to the support pipes.
Proper wiring is done to connect the solar panels with all the other components of the framework.
Additional features such as the tilting system for the solar panels, LED lights, charging ports, and automatic cleaning system is integrated into the solar tree.
The final step is erecting the solar tree in a suitable spot and connecting batteries at the base.
The complete structure can be installed in a domestic or commercial setting. It can be used to serve various purposes such as producing power, for aesthetic purposes, or creating awareness about solar energy.
Solar trees can even be installed on industrial lands as they still allow sunlight to reach the ground from the sides. An acre of land can take up to 500 solar trees and still allow for typical agricultural activities to happen.
Note: Most components of a solar tree come pre-installed, and you just need to complete a few connections and erect them. Of course, you don’t have to do this installation on your own– the solar tree company will send a solar installer to do this work for you.
Major Solar Tree Projects in the World
CSIR-CMERI solar tree
The biggest solar tree in the world is installed in Durgapur, West Bengal, India, by CSIR Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-CMERI).
The capacity of this solar tree is 11.5 kW.
Arms holding the solar panels are flexible for tilting and hold a total of 35 solar panels. The power production of this solar tree can be monitored in real-time or on a daily basis.
Israeli ‘Solar-Power’ Tree in France
A French-Israeli start-up installed the first solar tree in Northern France. The solar tree is inspired by an Acacia tree of the Israeli desert.
This eTree is quite versatile. People can use it to:
- Charge their phones
- Surf the internet
- Charge an electric bike.
Additionally, this solar tree lights up the place at night and powers a water distribution system for animals.
LeadSun’s solar tree in Melbourne
To support the ambition to create a carbon-neutral city powered by renewable energy, LeadSun designed a solar tree system meant for the Sustainable Living System. According to LeadSun, the project was quite special to them because it symbolized a mix of modern technology and environmental sustainability.
This solar tree features charging ports and LED lights that illuminate the area at night.
To leverage the full capabilities of this solar tree, it’s surrounded by a circular wooden seat made of indigenous and non-indigenous timbers from Melbourne.
Ross Lovegrove solar tree
Installed for Clerkenwell design week 2012, the Ross Lovegrove’s solar tree is one of the first solar trees to be installed in London.
Artemide designed the solar tree. It comprises 20 stems, 6 leaf-like solar panels, 10 stalks integrated with LEDs, and 4 lights.
Ross Lovegrove’s solar tree also incorporates a circular seating area and LED lighting that illuminates the place at night.
Solar Trees vs. Conventional Solar Panels
|FEATURE||SOLAR TREES||SOLAR PANELS|
|Cost||The average cost of a solar tree is $12,000 per kW.||Solar panels cost $3,500 per kW.|
|Applications||More applications since the structure are less space-consuming.||Application is limited to areas with extensive free land or roof space.|
|Usage diversity||Used for power production, as illumination structures, and as an artistic addition to a space.||Only used to harness sunlight and convert it to electrical energy.|
|Suitability||More suitable for commercial spaces.||Suitable for both commercial and domestic purposes.|
How do Solar Trees Work?
The working principle of a solar tree is likened to phyllotaxis and photosynthesis in plants.
Phyllotaxis is the regular arrangement pattern of leaves on a plant system.
With this arrangement, tree leaves convert solar energy into energy stored in plants (photosynthesis).
Likewise, solar panels are also highly structured on a ‘tree-like’ pillar. The ‘leaf-like’ solar modules similarly convert solar energy to electrical energy stored in batteries. The power can be used to power devices in the vicinity of the solar tree.
Often, solar trees are not used as standalone solar energy generators. Instead, they complement other solar module setups such as rooftop systems.
Some solar trees have additional mechanisms to maximize their power production efficiency. For example, a solar tree can be integrated with a water sprinkler to clean any debris from the solar panels automatically.
And did you know that some solar trees can be used to tap into wind energy?
Yes, wind energy!
A solar tree can be made with rotating support ‘branches’ that can make it possible to produce energy from wind.
Solar Trees for Homes
While it’s not common to see a solar tree in a home setting, the benefits this solar-producing structure offers makes it a worthy investment at the household level too.
Installing a solar tree in your home will not only give you the power to run your household devices but also lift the ambiance of your space.
Even if space is an issue in your home, solar trees for outside will still work for you. It becomes feasible to harness solar energy even from a tight corner in your home’s garden with solar trees.
What’s more, you’ll be among the first people to champion this solar design technology that’ll soon take over conventional solar PV module mounts.
Choosing a solar tree for a home depends on your primary motive.
If you want something to add to the power of your roof solar panel setup, go for a solar tree with good enough solar panels, and that produces a decent amount of power.
If your solar PV system is already producing enough power and you’re more for improving the look of your home, go for decorative solar trees.
Solar Trees for Commercial Properties
According to solar experts, solar trees work best for commercial establishments. The primary basis for this is the fact that utilization of the produced energy is more practical in a commercial setting.
Other reasons why solar trees are great for commercial properties include:
- If integrated with ports, they can be used as charging devices for phones, tablets, and laptops.
- Provision of shaded areas that workers can use as chill-out areas.
- They’re artistic structures that can be used to speak about the efforts of a company in supporting efficient solar energy production.
- They can be used as a perfect spot to surf the internet.
- Solar tree lights can be used to light the space at night, a nice feature for a company that operates at night.
Are there Portable Solar Trees?
Some solar trees have one solar panel that resembles a canopy. Reducing the number of solar panels on a solar tree cuts its overall weight, thus making it portable.
This GINKGO solar tree is a portable USB charger that you can carry anywhere and use to boost your phone or tablet on the go.
Please note: The portable side of solar trees has not been tapped into fully. However, thanks to technological advancement, this futuristic design will soon add to the most efficient portable clean energy sources.
Cost of solar trees
In our solar trees vs. conventional solar panels table, we mentioned that the average cost of a solar tree per kW is around $12,000.
But this cost varies depending on these factors:
- Size of the solar tree
- Number of solar panels used and
- Features such as charging ports, a seat, and an automatic cleaning system.
All in all, solar trees are a cost-effective investment that’s loaded with tons of benefits. You can buy solar trees from solar manufacturers or in leading solar systems stores.
Advantages of Solar Trees
Solar trees are multi-purpose structures
Solar trees are both artwork pieces and solar power generating structures.
At night, a solar tree can turn on its LED lights and illuminate the surrounding area.
In addition, the modules of a solar tree bar direct sunlight, thus creating a shade beneath it. This shaded area can also be used as a meeting place.
And that’s not all. Some solar trees are used as a charging and/or internet surfing spot.
Little or no maintenance is needed for solar trees
For the better part, solar panels are maintenance-free. This is especially true if they have an automatic cleaning system.
Other than cleaning, you would only need to inspect your solar trees to check if everything is intact.
Impressively eco-friendly structures
Solar trees reduce dependence on non-renewable sources of energy– they tap into the clean and renewable energy of the sun. This renders them highly environmentally friendly.
Solar trees have a space-saving design
Solar trees take up very little space but produce quite a decent amount of solar energy.
As you already know, lack of free space is a significant hurdle for solar energy production, so solar trees come in handy here.
Thanks to the vertical integration of solar panels in solar trees, they can be installed in places where roof mounts seem impossible.
Solar trees produce solar energy more efficiently
The spiraling phyllotaxy leveraged in solar trees enables efficient harnessing and production of solar energy. This, in addition to solar panel automatic tilting, makes solar highly efficient in producing solar power.
Remember the CSIR-CMERI solar tree mentioned earlier? It produces 10-15% more power than a ground-mounted solar panels array.
Solar trees sensitize the public about solar technology
A solar tree is a vivid artistic structure that’s hard to miss. Anyone who comes across a solar tree is definitely curious to learn more about the technology.
In fact, the primary reason solar trees are installed in public places such as schools and company establishments is to make people conscious of solar capabilities.
The solar energy industry is growing at a record pace. There’re inventions right, left, and center, with solar trees being one of the hottest talks of the industry right now.
Solar trees bring a new trajectory to ground mount systems where highly artistic structures can be used to produce solar energy.
This solar panel design has been adequately adopted all over the world and most countries now have completed, running, or in-design solar tree projects.
Thanks to the perks of solar tree power generation such as fewer space requirements and increased power production efficiency, it’s worth the money to invest in a solar tree.
So, whether it’s the portable type, or the large solar trees for a residential or commercial property, installing solar trees is a smart investment.