Charge Your EV With A Fake Tree?

When someone at CleanTechnica first shared the Solar Botanic Trees link, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at at first. Were they alien trees? Were they a joke? How much power do they produce? But after looking more at the site, it looks like a serious product that could prove to be not only aesthetically pleasing but also very useful for renewable energy.

At first this company reminded me of the “stealth” cell phone towers we see all the time. You know, the ones disguised to look like a giant pine tree (there are a few of these in El Paso sticking out like sore thumbs), a mutant palm tree, the world’s largest cylindrical tall hedge, and even church steeples. They’re trying too hard to make these cell towers look like something else, but they still scream, “I’m a cell phone tower!” regardless.

But Solar Botanic Trees is different in that they don’t try to be masters of disguise. They have a tree-like shape, but they’re obviously not a real tree, and they’re not trying to look real at all. This is better in most ways because they are not insulting to people who feel the cell tower company thinks we are stupid or practically blind.

The next big question I had was how they arrived at the 5kW figure. 5 kW of solar takes up a lot of space, and the trees in the picture don’t look very big at all. But the total size of the trees is 5 meters high with a canopy of 5 meters across. Using (4*pi*r^2)/2, this means a surface area of ​​39 square meters for the dome part of the tree. At 1000 watts per square meter it could theoretically come out to 39,000 watts, but with the sun only falling on one side of it at any given time, the 5kW estimate seems possible as it is only a fraction of the total hemispherical shape.

But they admit that the design has not been built or tested: “The key technological elements of the tree, specifically the photovoltaic (PV) cells, have been laboratory tested. The next step is to build a field prototype to validate the modeling and laboratory tests. This will be done at Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) in Sheffield for completion in Q1/2023.”

Screenshot from the website.

What I can’t make much sense of is the company’s plans for after its solar tree is tested and built. They claim that they will go for a much more realistic-looking tree that harvests not only solar energy, but also heat, rain and wind energy to produce electricity. I haven’t spoken to the company, but it seems like a very ambitious project to say the least. Not only is it very complex, but it makes some claims that are very difficult to verify.

But their plan to make a solar dome that is kind of tree-like seems like a very feasible and achievable project. For some people it would be preferable to rooftop solar, and it might even provide some shade for cars.

Featured Image: A screenshot from Solar Botanic Trees showing it in use for various applications.


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