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Solar scientists in India developed a solar technology based on an old design for natural sunlight-harvesting: the tree. For its size, the Solar Power Tree produces amounts of energy comparable to much larger arrays, in a fraction of the area. For example, about 2.5 acres of land are typically required to generate a megawatt of solar power. But the Solar Power tree has a footprint of about four square feet.
Developed by scientists at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute in New Delhi, a constituent laboratory of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the invention consists of structures supporting photovoltaic panels branching out from a central pole. The sculptural array generates up to 5 kilowatts, which is enough energy to light five houses in India.
A traditional solar panel layout could typically require 400 square feet of land to produce the same amount of power.
Because the solar panels on the tree are positioned high off the ground, the developers say they’re more efficient than traditional arrays and capable of gathering 10 to 15 percent more energy than the ground-based alternative.
The tree is installed with a built-in battery backup system so it can continue providing energy for up to two hours after the sun goes down, and is outfitted with a water sprinkler at the top for self-cleaning the panels.
The solar tree’s compact package makes it an appealing option for urban areas and rural regions with limited free space. It’s already completed successful trial runs in three locations in West Bengal, India, as a pilot project. It could be a boon to a country where roughly 300 million people don’t have access to electricity!
Future plans including developing a motorized rotatable module, that could align itself with the movement of the sun during the day.
CMERI is the only national laboratory dedicated to mechanical engineering, with a mission is to contribute significantly to national skill development initiatives for sustainable empowerment.
Solar Power Tree in India 2016