Artificial Trees: Capturing Energy from Sun and Wind

Analysis by Trace Dominguez
Sat Nov 19, 2011 09:04 AM ET

Alternative energy is all the rage as we try to reduce dependency on foreign oil and lower our monthy bills without reading by candlelight. At the head of the pack are three different technologies: wind turbines, solar panels that capture energy from sunlight and solar collectors that convert the heat from the sun into electricity. A London company combined all three into a power plant you’d want to have in your yard: an artificial tree.

The company, Solar Botanic, has created a fully artificial tree capable of generating enough electricity for a house and reduce the home owner’s dependence on the public power grid. The “trees” take advantage of the wind, light and heat they’re exposed to while outside. Solar Botanic’s website refers to these three technologies as piezovoltaic, photovoltaic and thermovoltaic, respectively.

The secret to Solar Botanic’s trees is in the leaves. Called Nanoleaves, each one functions as a tiny wind-harvesting/sunlight-gathering/heat-absorbing device. They’re green, which makes them slightly less efficient at gathering sunlight than conventional solar panels, but they do have a better consumer asthetic.

A description on Solar Botanic’s website says, “The more wind there is, the more Nanoleaves are moved.” And, “The stronger the wind, the higher the ‘flap’ frequency, and therefore the larger the watts generated.”

Plus, falling raindrops can also producing electricity by stimulating leaf movement. Though each individual movement, warmth or ray will only generate picowatts of power, hundreds of leaves on a single tree can combine to generate a siginificant wattage.

According to Solar Botanic, a broad leaf artificial tree resembling an oak or a maple could generate 3500kWh and 7000kWh per year, and an evergreen could crank out 2500kWh to 7000kWh per year.

The company said their solutions offer, “50 percent more power than conventional solar systems.” Energy gathered is stored in the trunk until it can be used by the house.

Solar Botanic has plans to create shrubs and bushes as well.

If successfully created and affordable, these trees have other added benefits versus more traditional alternative power systems: they look like trees.

Plus, as tree analogs, they could provide shade in the summer, create natural sound and visual barriers and provide decor for urban rooftops. In the future, they may even incorporate air filteration systems.

The only unanswered question is, “Can it support a tire swing?”

Image: Solar Botanic

via Artificial Trees: Capturing Energy from Sun and Wind : Discovery News.

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