The solar tree is a solar panel arrangement that draws from natural design, to maximise power output with minimal land requirement.
A ‘solar power tree’ developed by the science ministry harnesses solar energy for producing electricity with an innovative vertical arrangement of solar cells.
Almost akin to the architecture of a tree, with central trunk and solar panels acting like large leaves, it thus reduces the requirement of land as compared to conventional solar photovoltaic layout, on one hand, while keeping the land character intact on the other. Even cultivable land can be utilised for solar energy harnessing along with farming at the same time.
The innovation finds its viability both in rural and urban areas. Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan noted that in order to produce one megawatt of solar power, it requires about 1.4 hectares of land in the conventional sequential layout of solar panels. Thus, to generate copious quantities of green energy, there will be requirement of thousands of hectares of land. Acquisition of land is a major issue in itself, he added.
Girish Sahni, Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), says as a future prospect, the ‘solar power tree’ would be developed in a rotatable module, which would have a motorised mechanism to align itself with the movement of the sun during the day. Hence, it would be possible to harness more power over and above the current capacity.
This is where the Indian scientists seem to have learnt a lesson from the sunflower plant by applying that knowledge to harvest more solar energy. The sunflower is able to produce upwards of 10 percent more oil thanks to tracking the sun on the same lines the ‘solar tree’ is able to harvest between 10-15 per cent more electricity.
Vardhan hopes there would soon be plantations of the ‘solar tree’ all over India. In future, the sun facing smiley of the sunflower could help brighten India’s energy prospects.