Scientists in India have designed a new “solar tree” that may help to address some of the challenges associated with the generation of solar energy. Developed by the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Durgapur – a laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – the functional clean-energy machine promises to utilise minimal land to harness maximum energy.
At a 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, India pledged to slow the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions by a third by the year 2030. With an ambitious target of quadrupling its renewable power capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022, the nation has been pushing for the type of progressive infrastructure not yet widely adopted even in the United States. While investment into the green energy sector has increased, the issue of land has always presented a barrier to its successful implementation.
The innovative, CSIR developed “solar tree” may provide some solutions. Taking up less than four metres of land, its size alone could dramatically reduce the amount of land traditionally needed for the generation of green energy – an enormous advantage in a country like India, where land is scarce and the acquisition of it remains a relatively sensitive issue.
“It takes about four square metres of space to produce energy which otherwise would have required 400 square metres of space,” Daljit Singh Bedi, CSIR New Delhi’s chief scientist confirmed to Voice of America. “So almost 100 times the space is saved, which as you know is very valuable.”
Comprising multiple photovoltaic panels held at different levels from branches made of steel, the ‘tree’ holds its conduction panels at a greater height comparative to the more conventional ground layout. This allows more sunshine exposure per hour in the day, generating more energy than standard solar power generating devices – 10-15 per cent more according to scientists. Its minimally invasive physical installation also contributes to keeping India’s land character in tact.
While a device of this nature may not seem particularly groundbreaking, for India – a nation where almost 250 million remain without access to electricity yet is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases following China and the United States – it presents a radical solution to the disparity of access to electricity and the continuing problem of air pollution.
The plants size makes it ideal for installation in villages, rural farms and beside national highways. Already installed and functioning at the developer’s campus, CSIR’s Headquarters and at the residential campus of Minister of Science & Technology of India, researchers are also working on models with an aesthetic better suited to the needs of public parks and gardens.