My wife and I recently drove past the house of a neighbor who had solar panels installed during the pandemic. Because the house is in a shaded location, the panels were installed in a low-to-the-ground array in the yard. It's really unattractive. I didn't want to ask them for permission to photograph their yard, so I found this photo online that's close to what it looked like:
I applaud their decision to go solar, and would never volunteer my opinion of what it looks like, but I wondered if there isn't a more attractive solution to ground-mounted solar panels. What I found is the Smartflower, an invention from Austria that's been acquired by Boston-based Energy Management Inc.:
The Smartflower is inspired by sunflowers: It folds its "petals" up at night, with the sweeping action cleaning the panels. In the morning it unfurls them and, impressively, tilts to receive the sunlight at 90 degrees, and rotates to follow the sun's path throughout the day.
The renders made me suspicious it was nothing more than a concept. But this video from This Old House shows the system in action, and also shows the installation process:
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I think the $30,000 price cited for the 5KW unit shown is competitive, particularly with that 30% incentive. I would like to see the design evolve a bit more—it has the air of being a 1.0—but I think it's a damn sight better-looking than the ground-based arrays I've seen online and down the road.
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Doesn't the energy required to spiral out multiple 5ft solar panels twice a day kind of negate the energy savings? I'd bet that motor takes a fair amount of energy just to open and close.
I saw this at our local home show in Rhode Island, but it was about 10 years ago! I wonder if they are selling, being profitable. It was very cool looking, and cuter than the ground solar array you mention. I thought the ability to collapse probably helps keep it from being damaged in bad weather.