Solar tree

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Solar tree in Gleisdorf, Austria

The Solar Tree is a combination of artistic and technological effort which exists as a form of solar artwork. Within the past several years, artistically inclined inventors have strived to envision new methods to gain utility from solar cell technology. This relatively new concept was conceived in an attempt to merge new technology, relating to the absorption and use of solar power, and artistic aesthetic. The inspiration for their organic design has both visually pleasing and pragmatic purposes. Though the instrumental value of the Solar Tree may differ depending on its interpretation, the general form of an organic, tree-like figure utilizing solar panels remains consistent.


Ross Lovegrove, a Welsh industrial designer renowned for his organic inspired designs, originally conceived of the concept. It was first manufactured by Artemide, a design based Italian manufacturer based in Milan. In an effort to follow a more environmentally conscious route, the company sought to incorporate solar power in their architectural designs.[1]

Artemide defines the Solar Tree as “The successful marriage of the most advanced technology and the aesthetic requirements of the urban environment by way of renewable energy.”[2]

Ross Lovegrove’s original design consisted of a sinuous tree constructed of steel pipes, measuring 5.5 meters, supporting a light bubble in which 38 solar cells are connected to a hidden 12V battery system which lights an assortment of 1W LEDs at the tip. The solar cells for the project were commissioned by Sharp Solar, who Artemide considers the leading manufacturer of solar cells. The peak power of each solar panel can reach 38 watts.

Ross Lovegrove Solar Tree on display.

How it works[edit]

The Solar Tree panels charge batteries during the day. At dusk the Solar Tree automatically switches on its LEDs. The internal control can also regulate the amount of light produced depending on how much charge is left in the batteries.[3] Artemide claims the Solar Tree will produce light for three consecutive overcast days.[4] The designer Ross Lovegrove claims, "Solar Tree represents the DNA of our time and it also shows it is possible to create beautiful things using the most advanced technology."[5] In 2007 Lovegrove was awarded the Vogue Traveller Ecology Prize for his work with the Solar Tree.

The Solar Tree Foundation[edit]

Rein Triefeldt is a solar environmentalist artist that has also begun to construct Solar Trees. He is one of the founders and the current president of the Solar Tree Foundation which began in 2008.[6]

The Solar Tree Foundation designs programs for elementary school students to show them the creative process for constructing a Solar Tree in order to educate a broad audience on the environmental and technological material. It’s also designed with the intention of instilling an appreciation for artistic aesthetics interpreted through sculptures as a medium of expression. This is performed by online lectures and webcams in which the students can engage with the architects and see the construction process in real time. [7] Triefeldt believes that his Solar Trees will help preserve natural trees in the long run.

The latest Solar Tree constructed by the Solar Tree Foundation was erected for North Hillsborough Elementary School in Hillsborough California. At peak efficiency, the 10,000 lb Solar Tree is claimed to produce 20,000 watts of energy per day.[8]

Further interpretations[edit]

The Strawberry Tree, invented by the Serbian company Strawberry Energy, is a variation of the Solar Tree in that it is specifically designed to recharge mobile devices. The company won the Sustainable Energy Week 2011” competition for it’s revolutionary contribution.[9]

There is a distinction to be made between the organically inspired Solar Tree and the Solar Tree’s that have been adopted to create energy efficient parking lots.[10] Companies such as General Electric[11] have installed solar panels in car parking lots to collect solar energy and protect vehicles from sun damage. These car sheltering solar devices differ from artistic Solar Trees in that they have no organic aesthetic. In contrast to the field of solar artwork, they would more appropriately be dubbed elevated solar panels.


  1. ^ Artemide. . N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2013. Artemide Events Page.
  2. ^ Artemide. . N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2013. Artemide Events Page.
  3. ^ Design Boom May 26, 2012 Article on LoveGrove and solar trees
  4. ^ Solar Tree. Artemide. N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2013. Artemide Brochure.
  5. ^ Artemide . N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2013. Artemide on LoveGrove.
  6. ^ Rein Triefeldt. Princeton Green. N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2013. On Rein Triefeldt.
  7. ^ Projects. Solar Tree Foundation. N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2013. Solar Tree Foundation Projects.
  8. ^ Solar Tree Foundation accessed: Feb 20, 2013 Solar Tree Foundation site
  9. ^ strawberry tree (The Solar Energy Device)
  10. ^ Clean Technica Feb 21, 2013 Clean Technica
  11. ^ Clean Technica May 30, 2011 General Electric goes solar

External links[edit]