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Our BatchGeo world MAP shows the locations of green architecture, green building and renewable energy projects featured on Solaripedia.

Project

Solar Ivy Uses PVs and Piezoelectrics

Credits: ©2010 SMIT

Tiny, flexible solar cells mimic leaves that are attached to a stainless steel mesh system. On the “front” of the leaves, PVs capture sunlight and generate electricity; on the back side are piezoelectric generators that generate power when leaf movement is caused by the wind. A 28-sq-ft area of Solar Ivy is capable of generating 85 Watts of solar power. One of the system’s advantages is that it can be easily mounted on a vertical wall due to its light weight. Solar panels aren't typically used on the sides of buildings, because they work best when the sun hits them at a 90-degree angle; but Solar Ivy's foliage-like shape is designed for capturing oblique light. Solar Ivy leaves are not static, but can move around and catch the sun from many directions. Due to the organic shape of each panel, they also look and behave like natural leaves, providing an aesthetic similar to climbing ivy. Solar Ivy can also integrate an energy monitoring system called WATTg so that users can visualize their energy consumption and generation. The leaves are made of 100 percent recyclable polyethylene, and are available in a variety of colors and opacities.

 

Solar Ivy House

Solar Ivy is a solar energy system whose design reflects the natural growth of ivy on building and in nature. Flexible, modular, and customizable, Solar Ivy can be used in conjunction with traditional solar panels or independently to meet the demands of a wide spectrum of energy needs. ©2010 Solar Ivy / SMIT

The Future of Solar?
by Jamie Gross, Dwell Magazine August 2010 -

The Brooklyn–based start-up SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) was formed in 2005 by the brother and sister team of Samuel and Teresita Cochran. Their goal: to invent a hybrid new approach to solar and wind power. Their Solar Ivy—flexible photovoltaic 'leaves' made of sheets of recyclable polyethylene—is a modular, ivy-like system that can be used on the sides of buildings, to capture the sunlight much like plants do. As the 'ivy' flutters and shifts in the wind, it converts solar energy into electricity.

Solar Ivy is currently in production, and will be available for purchase starting in mid-October. Meanwhile, the Cochrans, along with architectural designer Benjamin Wheeler Howes, are currently developing the next generation of the technology, which they call GROW. It will look and act like Solar Ivy, except that as it flutters in the wind, it will transform that kinetic energy into electricity, making each leaf that much more potent and powerful.

What inspired solar ivy, originally?
I grew up in St. Louis with a window that looked out over a wall of ivy. It found its way there because it could get a good footing on the old brick buildings, and it received direct sun. The ivy would move slightly, like prairie grass, showing waves of wind moving across a building. This vision from childhood stayed with me till I was trained as an Industrial Designer at Pratt Institute; then I was able to see the connections and opportunities between that vision of a plant and how we apply photovoltaic panels to our homes. From this, Solar Ivy and GROW products were born.

What's cool about this invention, compared to regular solar panels?
Solar Ivy—a biomimetic form of ivy—is an extremely versatile system of modular components, which allows solar to go places that were previously inaccessible. It's the first of many products we're developing that look toward the future of what a solar system on a home can be, and really improve the experience of how we live and interact with it. We're also working on a hybrid wind-and-solar panel that resembles ivy, which we're calling GROW. Both GROW and Solar Ivy have modular elements, which keeps manufacturing costs down, and allows for the designs to adapt to advances in solar technology.

Is there a precedent for this concept of combining solar and wind energy?
In very few cases; most are wind turbines next to solar arrays. None are as closely integrated as GROW.

What's next?
We have many sales in the works for our first production run of Solar Ivy, which will be available by mid-October. In the near future we will be setting up a test location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to experiment with the next versions of Solar Ivy, and some new products aimed at stadiums and lighting-heavy applications like Times Square and Las Vegas.

What's your ultimate vision for GROW, or Solar Ivy?
I see our products covering and powering skyscrapers, stadiums, and homes all over the world.


Resources

Solar Ivy

SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) (USA)