The solar industry in America is growing at a rate of 50% annually. Any industry growing at such extraordinary rates is bound to see new innovation. In solar, these innovations have come in the form of new designs and improved technology. One such design innovation is the solar tree or the solar panel tree.
If you are thinking, wait aren’t all trees, in essence, solar trees? You are right, they are, all trees work on solar energy. But the solar trees we talk about are different: they are much more ‘solar’ than they are a tree.
And don’t confuse them with solar farms or solar gardens, or those solar tree lights we see hanging around.
What are solar trees?
They are solar panels mounted atop a long pole. The pole can support multiple panels in different spots, much like branches on a tree.
Solar trees would fall under the broader category of ground-mounted solar panels. What distinguishes a solar tree from other types of solar setups is its unique design.
The concept emerged in different sources around the same time, so it’s hard to say who was first. Over the years, it has been tested and refined by various solar manufacturers from all around the world.
Why solar trees?
Factors that make the solar trees stand out:
Efficient design. In situations where space is a constraint, solar trees provide an option for installing multiple layers of solar panels while maximizing the efficiency of the available area.
They look great. The solar tree design is efficient and strikingly appealing. Compared to the way standard solar panels are laid out, solar trees look a lot more aesthetically pleasing. The sight of a tree-shaped solar installation can be quite pleasing to the eyes.
Flexibility and compatibility. Solar panel trees can serve as an excellent option for properties where solar roofing is not an option. They are also available with automatic sun tracking and in-built cleaning mechanisms.
Perfect for making a statement. Individuals and businesses looking to showcase their support for sustainability can do so in style by installing solar trees. Some of the most popular solar panel tree installations around the world serve precisely this purpose. We list some of those designs in this article.
A great way to educate people about solar. They are often used as a means to educate and build awareness about solar technology and are being used for this purpose in various schools and institutions around the world.
Potentially enhanced electricity output. There are certain solar tree designs which claim to produce a substantially higher amount of electricity when compared to standard solar panels covering the same surface area.
Brands that manufacture solar power trees
Spotlight and Envision solar are the leading manufacturers of solar trees in America. We first look at these two and then touch upon the other notable manufacturers around the world.
With more than 200 color schemes to choose from and options to embed your brand’s logo on the structure, these solar trees look unique. While Spotlight does not offer sun tracking capability, their unique designs can be made to optimize solar production for different locations. Spotlight has already undertaken some notable projects, like the installations at the Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Zoo.
Envision solar is another leading solar tree manufacturer. Their solar trees are primarily built for efficiency and usability. They look less like a solar tree and more like a solar canopy or a solar carport.
The standard Envision solar tree is mounted on a single central tower, with a 35 square-foot 60 module solar photovoltaic panel, a solar array mounted on top. They come with a 30-year warranty on the PV cells and the inverter.
Envision also provides a custom solution for self-sustainable electric vehicle charging stations. In these stations, the solar-powered trees produce energy that is stored in batteries and can be used to charge electric vehicles.
Envision solar trees come with a patented sun tracking system installed. This can improve their energy production by up to 25%.
Installed in Dubai, these solar trees imbibe the essence of that magnificent city. They are stylish and an excellent symbol of future solar technology.
Artemide solar tree
A lighting design and manufacturing company from Milan, Artemide manufactures stylish lighting fixtures integrated into a solar tree.
More of a solar flower than a solar tree, the smart flower comes with an automated sun tracker, in-built cleaning system and is one of the easiest solar panels to install. If you’re curious about the Smart Flower, you’re in luck —check out our detailed review.
Solar trees vs solar panels
How do solar trees compare with standard solar panels? Here’s a side-by-side comparison. ==:
Standard solar panels
Average cost — Spotlight 1.7 to 5 KW: $30,000–$60,000
Average cost — Envision 16.5KW: $100,000
*Price does not include the 30% solar tax credit
Average cost 5kW $13,640–$21,157
*Price does not include the 30% solar tax credit
Works best for commercial properties looking to make a bold statement.
Works best for residential and commercial properties looking to maximize solar energy output.
Works best if no option for rooftop solar or limited space for ground mount.
Works best when there is space for rooftop solar and available land for ground mount panels.
Might have more real-world applications in the future.
Can start saving you money while helping the environment right now.
Who should buy a solar tree?
For both residential or business customers, standard solar panels are by far the most cost-effective and efficient way to make use of solar energy.
Installing a solar tree only makes sense if you fit one of the following descriptions:
Local governments or councils looking to showcase their support for any current solar energy schemes by installing solar trees in public areas. Communities in Florida have come together to get solar trees installed in zoos, museums, airports, and parks around Florida.
A school or educational institution looking to inspire young minds. A well designed solar tree can work as a tool to showcase the coming together of technology and design.
Private companies wanting to advertise their support for renewable energy. Many companies across America are already doing this. Nothing screams, “We love solar energy!” more than a fancy looking solar tree.
Locations that do not have any available space for solar panels. If you cannot install solar panels on your roof and have no available space on the ground, then a solar tree is a fantastic option.
Final word on the solar tree
Solar trees offer a new and exciting way to collect energy. As the world moves towards adopting solar power, solar trees will serve the purpose of showcasing and celebrating solar energy. Also, as technology continues to develop and more companies enter the market, it is certain that the cost of solar trees will reduce.
If you are an individual or business keen on showing your support for solar energy, consider teaming up with local business and councils to purchase one. A solar tree installed in your local park or a street corner can serve as a great symbol of the bright future of solar and add aesthetic value to your business or locality.
On the other hand, if you want to maximize solar energy output and save money while helping the environment, then standard solar panels with the 30% tax credit are a no-brainer for both residential and commercial properties. If you’re curious about solar panels for your home, use the solar calculator below to get more information.
We leave you with the most popular solar trees from around the world:
‘The possibility tree.’ What makes this installation in Nigeria special is that it is one of the first solar tree installations in Africa. It stands as a symbol of all that is possible with solar energy in Africa.
Europe’s first solar tree. In May 2017, the French town of Nevers installed Europe’s first ever solar panel tree. This futuristic installation enables users to charge cell phones, surf the internet, charge an electric bike, light up the night, and distribute fresh water.
CMERI Solar tree. This solar system installation in India is a one of-its-kind design. It is capable of being 10–15%more efficient than a traditional solar panel. It serves as a model of solar energy production in a country where land is a scarce commodity.