James Cameron Creates Giant Solar Sunflowers for Malibu School

The James Cameron-designed solar sunflowers are capable of generating 300kW of energy. (Photo: MUSE/Facebook).

James Cameron has unveiled his latest creation — a towering, blue giant that can harness the sun's energy and turn it into clean, sustainable electricity. No, I'm not talking about a super-charged Na'vi character from his upcoming "Avatar" sequel, but a giant photovoltaic flower. The 60-year-old director and environmentalist designed the creative arrays as a birthday gift for his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, after she mentioned she was interested in adding solar power to her environmentally focused MUSE School in Malibu, California.

"So much of her focus was on MUSE, and the school stood for something — the way in which we conduct our relationship with the planet," Cameron said last weekend at an unveiling at the school. "I thought we should try to do something that inspires because this is about kids. Once you capture their imagination and empower them, they can do anything."

Cameron's creation, which he named "Solar Sun Flowers," stands 16-feet tall and features a diameter of almost 30 feet. Each flower, capable of tracking the sun throughout the day (just like a real sunflower), can generate about 300kW of energy daily. MUSE decided to install five of the flowers — a collective bouquet of energy that should offset between 75 percent to 90 percent of their power usage.

Response to the design was so great, that Cameron actually gave serious thought to creating a startup around the solar concept. In the end, however, he decided to go with an open-source approach to help others interested in building something similar.

"When we saw that there was a positive response to the design, we started to discuss maybe we do a startup company," The Hollywood Reporter quoted Cameron as saying. "But I thought, if we do that we’ll build several hundred. But if we make the design open source and publish the plans online and empower anyone to use this idea, there may be ten thousand. They can be integrated into landscape architecture. ... I think it’s a beautiful way to express the spirit of what solar energy is all about."

The Solar Sun Flowers project is just the latest in an array of sustainable initiatives the Cameron family has made over the last couple years to reduce their environmental footprint. In addition to embracing veganism, the family has dramatically increased their focus on sustainable crops on their New Zealand farm, as well as shifting both business and personal endeavors to run on clean energy. This fall, the Cameron's MUSE school will become the first plant-based school in the U.S., with a daily vegan lunch and snack.

"What has really been a major eye opener is the connection between food and the environment," Amis Cameron told NPR last year. "Now, we're benefiting greatly from eating plant-based, as are our children, but the environmental piece has become really our sole focus."