I’m not sure how this happened, but twice this week I found myself sitting around a table with fellow “green teamers” discussing solar trees as a way to reduce our carbon footprint. First, I heard from Bob Ferguson about Envision Solar’s ground-breaking Solar Tree for parking lots. How brilliant is that? Parking lots are generally pretty hot, desolate places to begin with – putting up towers with photovoltaic cells couldn’t really “spoil” the ambiance there. In fact, the solar trees look pretty cool, and they provide some shade to cars and reduce the heat island effect caused by development. They even have outlets for charging electric cars. And of course, when they put a whole bunch of these trees together, they call them Solar Groves. Each tree in the grove produces 17,000 kWh per year, enough to power three typical San Diego homes for a year. Also fascinating, is their LifeVillage – an entire modular solar-powered village that can be constructed in developing nations to provide self-powered community infrastructure for people in need.
My second solar tree encounter this week was at a WeAreBOOST Contest to Camp CURE kickoff dinner in Trenton. WeAreBoost is running a Back2Tap reusable bottle fundraiser to raise money for the contest prizes. One of my fellow speakers was Rein Triefeldt, a solar kinetic sculptor from Trenton. He told us about his collaboration with an elementary school environmental club in Hillsborough, California. Together via iChat technology, he and the students designed a 25-foot grid-connected, energy-producing solar tree for the school yard. Then during the week of Earth Day 2008, they built a maquette (model) of their beautiful California Oak solar tree. They calculate that their solar tree will generate 7,300 kWh – enough power to re-charge 2.500 iPhones and iPod’s every day for a year. That’s something students were especially thrilled to learn! I think the students summed it up best: “Solar trees saving real trees – that’s just too cool!”