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Solar Trees: Growing Green

We’ve all heard that money doesn’t grow on trees. Does it grow on solar trees?

One of the latest solar inventions, the Solar Tree, is digging its roots into the business world and residential communities. The idea of the solar tree first sprouted on the streets of Vienna. The concept was a little different, but the overall theme and name are the same.  In Europe, solar trees are used in place of streetlights. The artificial trees provide enough light throughout the night, even if the sun doesn’t shine for four days in a row.   These solar lights even look like trees with branches that hold 10 solar lamps. Designed by Ross Lovegrove, the solar trees saved the city 524,000 KWh of electricity and $96,800 in 2005.

 

Solar Trees: Growing GreenIn the United States, San Diego-based Envision Solar is spearheading this energy-efficient invention with its own Solar Tree. Envision CEO and architect Robert Noble, who wanted to give parking lots more purpose than just a place to keep your car, created its aesthetically pleasing design. With its Solar Tree system, Envision Solar is on a mission to turn parking lots across the country into gardens of alternative energy by “planting” scores of the devices. Each “tree” is topped with a 1,000-square-foot canopy that is covered in solar cells built by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Kyocera.

This system of “planting” several Solar Trees is called a Solar Grove. The Solar Groves work best on large parking lots, and they not only use the sun as a way to produce energy, they also shade cars, displace unwanted run-off, and even have a place to plug in electric vehicles. According to Envision Solar’s Web site “a Solar Grove can pay for itself in as little as five years, and create positive cash flows from the first day of operation by avoiding the cost of existing electricity bills.”

The prices of these “power plants” vary by size, installation, site conditions and a company’s energy usage. Envision Solar will work with a company to create a financial analysis and see what’s right for the business. Also, many states offer incentives for using solar energy. These can be found at www.dsireusa.org.

Solar Trees: Growing GreenOne of Envision Solar’s better-known Solar Grove projects can be found at one of the nations “greenest” college campuses, the University of California at San Diego. Each tree generates more than 17,000 hours of clean energy per year and eliminates 13.2 metric tons of carbon emissions.

Various other kinds of solar trees can be seen all across the U.S. and are not solely produced by Envision Solar. One of the more ambitious projects is at Google’s California headquarters.  Energy Innovations, a company that also produces solar panels for parking lots, installed the 1.6-megawatt design.

Solar Trees were initially created by Envision Solar for large businesses, but have now been transformed to work on a smaller scale. Envision Solar recently started a new line of residential solar applications. An example of this is the LifeTree, a single post steel structure with a cantilevered canopy. It costs around $18,500 and provides about 1.4 kilowatts of clean energy.

Living in Arizona provides businesses and consumers with more than enough sunlight to take advantage of this cost-effective energy system.  Solar Trees are a way to conserve space and energy. They can save a company and consumers money, and make an “eco-friendly” statement. Solar energy is the future and planting these solar “trees” has never had a bigger payoff.

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