Like Solar Trees, The Solar ‘Smartflower’ Also faces Cost Challenges

Highlights :

  • Solar’s effort to be aesthetically pleasing has been a tough journey so far, with costs a key issue.
  • Costs are one reason why solar tiles for instance remain a developed country privilege even now.

Austria-based Smart Flower Energy Technology aims to “make a solar statement with the sculptural, intelligent Smartflower,” the latter being a flower-shaped solar product made of panels which operate with dual axis tracking, i.e. they follow the sun to always face it at an ideal 90 degrees. With a peak capacity of 2.5 kilowatts, the product is pitched at both homeowners and businesses.

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The company seeks to offer “an elegant option” to those who believe in sustainability for a better energy and environmental future.

Founded in Austria, Smartflower was acquired in 2018 by Energy Management Inc. (EMI), a Boston, MA corporation with over 43 years of experience developing large energy projects. “Sunflowers open, close and follow the sun for optimal energy conversion, we figured solar panels should too,” say the developers, claiming their project provides instant, inspired and intelligent energy.

Smartflower

Courtesy: Smartflower Website

Using clever design to provide quick installation, higher efficiency and aesthetics as compared to the typical rooftop or other solar plant, the Smartflower does have one noticeable drawback. Price.

Before applying for all incentives and tax credits, the SmartFlower solar panel system ranges in price from $25,000 to $30,000, with the average cost to install at $27,000. Residential users can get the same output from rooftop panels for much less money. The company therefore sells mostly to corporate clients, where eye-catching solar arrays advertise sustainability commitments.

The problem seems similar to the PV Port systems that were installed recently at Akshardham temple that we covered, which reportedly cost Rs 2.5 lacs each. The ones at Akshardham were thanks to German development partner GIZ stepping in.

In a similar vein, we had highlighted how the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-CMERI), India, has been building the world’s “largest” solar trees since 2016, investing lakhs of rupees in the process. Intended to bring visibility to solar technology, solar trees are a bit like art installations that enhance the surrounding landscape as well as increase awareness about solar energy.

Additionally, in land-scarce areas, solar trees complement rooftop solar systems and other green building measures by occupying little installation space. The working of a solar tree is much like that of a real one—leaf-like solar panels connected through metal branches using sunlight to make energy. The solar tree seems to be a feel-good approach to showcase solar energy technological advancements, but one without accountability for its real utility.

The Smartflower, strictly speaking, seems destined to remain a pretty showcase and not much more in terms of serious intent.

smartflower

An expensive indulgence?

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