Plastic Energy-Harvesting Trees: Harness Both Wind and Sun

May 24, 2009

(ChattahBox)—If a Dutch inventor has his way, the future aesthetic of both solar panels and wind turbines will not stand out like a sore thumb on the natural landscape, but pleasingly blend in instead.

Alex Van Der Beek, founder of London based, SolarBotanic Ltd developed a new way to harness environmentally friendly wind and solar radiation power with the use of specially designed artificial trees, using a concept called biomimicry.

Conventional black solar panels and massive wind turbines are seen by many as blight on the natural landscape, although the technology produces clean, green electricity, minus the damaging carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

Van Der Beek has come up with a solution to the aesthetic problem, by designing plastic, artificial “trees’ that not only blend into the landscape, but can produce enough electricity to power a whole house or an entire town.

The leaves would be composed of thin-film photovoltaics to collect sunlight and the trunks molded from recycled plastic and tires. The energy harvesting trees would also be available in different varieties, ranging from low-lying shrubbery, palm trees and evergreen trees. Van de Beek is also experimenting with flowers equipped with PV collecting solar cells.

Broad leaf trees with large canopies can provide between 3500kWh and 7000kWh per year.

The energy producing trees rely on the fusion of three different technologies, applied to the leaves, called nanoleaves.

Each nanoleaf would include photovoltaic cells to collect solar energy, thermoelectrics for converting the sun’s heat to electricity, and piezoelectric nanogenerators in the leaves’ stems or stalks to capture the kinetic energy from the wind as it rustles the leaves.

Van de Been envisions vast stretches of highways lined with the energy producing trees, collecting wind and solar power, powering up whole towns or used in a variety of climates, including deserts.

Despite holding great promise for future green energy, there are a couple of drawbacks so far. The first obstacle is a technical one, coming up with a light enough design for the nanoleaves, so they can blow in the wind. Additionally, the power produced from the energy producing trees is more expensive, at 13.5 cents per kilowatt, compared to current standard rates of five cents.

However, with economies of scale, the price of the energy trees will decrease and more importantly, they look better in a natural environment and provide green energy.

Someday, we may be taking a completely different view to how we power up our homes and cars, preferring to pay a few pennies more for green energy.

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One Response to “Plastic Energy-Harvesting Trees: Harness Both Wind and Sun”

  1. Plastic Energy-Harvesting Trees: Harness Both Wind and Sun - Chattahbox.com | The Green Outlet Store on May 24th, 2009 1:58 pm

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