Solar tree is a structure incorporating solar energy technology on a single pillar, like a tree trunk. It may be a solar artwork or a functional power generator.
Solar trees are intended to bring visibility to solar technology and to enhance the landscape and architecture they complement, usually in a commercial or public context. An objective of many solar tree installations is to promote awareness, understanding, and adoption of renewable energy.
They are not typically used as a primary source of energy for a property—that role is accomplished by rooftop solar systems. Solar trees are complementary to rooftop solar systems, or other green building measures, symbolizing these larger investments and their environmental benefit.
When discussing solar tree a very important concept is spiraling phyllotaxy, in botanical context phyllotaxy is the arrangement of leaves over a stem, likewise the arrangement of solar panels in a solar tree has to ensure maximum efficiency in harnessing the solar energy that is one panel shouldnot be covered by the shade of the upper panels, a simple design to ensure that is spiral phyllotaxy.
Solar trees may build awareness and interest in solar technology and also provide shade and meeting places.
Unique sculptural creations for a single sites began to appear in 1998 (e.g., the 7 kW tree in Gleisdorf, Austria) or earlier.
A number of variants of solar trees have been conceived, not all of them realized in installations. Locations have included roadways, public areas in cities, schools and universities, office buildings, science museums, and more.
Recently, designers and manufacturers have introduced solar trees as products, designed to deliver the benefits of solar trees in a repeatable way to more places.
Examples include Ross Lovegrove’s solar tree which incorporated seating, lighting, and circular groupings of photovoltaic cells, Envision Solar solar parking canopy specifically trademarked Solar Tree, and Spotlight Solar’s line of architectural structures.
In 2016, Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Durgapur, India invented another model of Solar Tree for its application at villages, besides national highway and conventional power grid system to fulfill the electricity crisis by increasing the share of renewable energy in the country.
The developed structure is capable of generating the electricity in tune of 3-7 Kwh with a bare footprint of 2×2 sqft area. These solar trees are already installed and functioning at developer’s campus, CSIR’s Headquarter and at the residential campus of Minister of Science & Technology of India to demonstrate the success of the technology.
Researchers at CSIR-CMERI are also working on bringing aesthetic models to suit the need of public parks, gardens, market places etc.
There is a distinction to be made between organically inspired solar trees and structures which have been adapted to create energy efficient parking lots. Companies such as General Electric have installed solar panels in car parking lots to collect solar energy and protect vehicles from sun damage.