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Three Solar Designs That We Are Thankful For

Jessica PirroNovember 19, 20192760

The solar energy industry is constantly evolving, and as of now, most solar panel installations are normally rooftop or ground-mounts. But some innovations could be changing the way that solar energy is generated.

Solar Roads

Solar power roads and highways are new to the solar energy industry. Solar power roadways are roads that have integrated photovoltaic cells that will generate power from the sun.

What Are Solar Roadways?

When you are driving down the street in the U.S., chances are you are going to drive on asphalt. A solar roadway is going to be any road that is equipped with some form of solar panel technology. This technology is attached to the surface of the road and produces solar electricity while supporting the cars and the trucks driving on it. Sure they are an interesting and innovative way to generate solar power, but solar roads are not quite a realistic source of solar energy.

Solar Roadways is a solar company in the United States, that has raised funds for prototyping the installation of the solar power roads. But the solar company is quite a ways away from having a road that is going to generate solar power because with this new technology comes new challenges that they will be facing in the manufacturing process of solar power roads.

Is There a Future for Solar Power From Roadways in the U.S.?

According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, there are around 8,615,000 miles of road in the lower 48 states, which translates to approximately 18,000 square miles of land that is covered by roads. Making it a little more than three times the land area of Connecticut.

An analysis that was done back in 2008 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found, roughly 1,948 square feet of land, per person, is needed to supply enough solar electricity for the whole country to run on solar power. If you were to multiply that number by the population of the United States, you would find, that for the whole country to run on solar energy you would need around 23,000 square miles of land. Comparing that number to the square mileage of roads in the U.S., we will find that covering the roads with photovoltaic cells in the lower 48 states, we would be able to generate a little less than 80 percent of the nation’s energy needs. These calculations are only a rough estimate.

Smartflower Solar-Powered Systems

The Smartflower is a “flower” that is made up of solar panels. This solar panel array is a ground-mounted solar-powered system, that is equipped with a solar energy tracker that follows the sun. This solar energy device is going to look a little different than what you may be used to. The solar-powered system looks like a giant flower.

How Smartflower Solar-Powered Systems are Different From Other Solar Panel Options

This solar panel installation looks like a flower, coining the name solar flower. The solar panels are arranged on individual “petals” that open at the beginning of each day. When the sun goes down, the Smartflower’s petals fold up and the self-cleaning process kicks in.

In addition to solar panels, the Smartflower residential solar-powered system is equipped with a dual-axis tracker, which makes it possible for the petals to follow the sun across the sky throughout the day. Thanks to the tracking capability, the Smartflower residential solar-powered system can produce a lot more solar electricity than a similarly-sized rooftop solar panel installation. According to Smartflower’s website, these solar-powered systems produce up to 40 percent more solar electricity when compared to other residential solar-powered systems. The 12-petal, 194 square-foot structure produces 2.5 kilowatts (kW) of solar electricity, which is equivalent to a 3.5 to a 4 kW fixed solar-powered system.

There is currently only one solar flower model that is available in the United States. The Austria based solar company has plans to make two additional models with new features. The Smartflower plus is going to have the same solar electricity generation benefits that the standard Smartflower has. The new device will also have an integrated battery that provides 6 to 13 kWh of solar power storage. It was expected to be available to the United States customers in early 2018, but the actual rollout is not clear.

Solar Panel Trees 

One of the new and innovative advances in the solar power industry is the solar panel tree. The solar panel trees aren’t to be confused with mass solar panel farms or mass solar gardens, they are their invention.

What Are Solar Panel Trees?

Solar panel trees are a long pole with a solar panel installation on top. The poles can support multiple solar panels, much like the branches on a tree.

These solar trees will fall under the broader category of a ground-mounted solar-powered system. What makes this setup of solar panels different from other setups is the unique design.

The concept emerged from different sources around the same time, which makes it hard to determine who was the first to debut solar panel trees. Over the years the innovation was tested and refined by different solar panel manufacturers all over the world.

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