Yes, that's right, groves of pole-mounted solar panels, so-called "solar trees" are the newest addition to Google's ambitious solar project for their Mountain View, California, headquarters. Estimated to feed about 30 percent of the complex's entire power demand, one third of the 9,000 solar panels in the system will take the form of solar trees that will line the parking lots. If you're curious, find more details on Google's 1.6-megawatt solar system in development in John's previous post here.Much like natural trees, the solar trees provide shelter from the rain and shade the path on scorching hot days. While silently generating renewable juice the trees add a clever design twist to an oft neglected area – the parking lot. Compared to roof mounted photovoltaic systems, solar trees are considerably easier to install – especially if your architecture is more intricate than a square box with a flat roof (the ideal condition for installation). Planting solar trees in the parking lots helped surmount some of the installation challenges. An elegant solution to a tricky problem.
While Google is its most ambitious project to date, EI Solutions has already done a half-dozen solar installations in parking lots (such as the one pictured above). Last year, the company finished a park-and-ride lot in Vacaville, California, that uses overhanging solar panels to generate power on fair days, and protect passengers from the rain during foul weather.
Envision Solar, an other company developing and building solar groves (for Kyocera among others) is also planning to enter the residential market next year. Solar trees designed for smaller buildings and homes are in the works. Do-it-yourself kits would easily allow two- and four-car solar carports to be transformed into home photovoltaic systems. Perhaps you'll be able to pick up a kit at Home Depot or Walmart around this time next year (pure speculation – but here's hoping). :: Wired News