Remember New Wind, the brilliant miniature tree-shaped wind turbine built by Jérôme Michaud-Larivière back in 2014? Created by a team at India’s Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-CMERI), the new Solar Power Tree looks somewhat similar, except it features a vertical arrangement of solar cells that can operate on much smaller plots of land. Recently unveiled by Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Dr. Harsh Vardhan in New Delhi, the contraption, which is designed for use in crowded areas, produces the same amount of electricity as a traditional array.
Each of the branches of this tree-like structure boasts efficient photovoltaic panels. Thanks to its innovative design, the Solar Power Tree can be erected on a four-square-feet area, which is significantly less than the 400-square-feet land required for the operation of a conventional array. Despite its miniature build, the new contraption can generating up to 5 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power around five homes.
What’s more, it is capable of harvesting about 10 to 15-percent more solar power than regular, ground-based arrays. In addition to generating usable electricity, the harnessed energy charges a battery backup system. When fully charged, the battery can power a street light for nearly two hours following sunset. As pointed out by the researchers, the Solar Tree is self-cleansing, relying on a built-in water sprinkler to remove dirt that might in turn affect its efficiency.
A prototype of the Solar Power Tree has already been tested in different parts across the Indian state of West Bengal. At present, the scientists are working towards integrating a rotating mechanism that could further enhance the structure’s efficiency by allowing it to track the sun throughout the day. The 5 kW version is currently available at a price of around $7,500.