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Is a Smart Flower the Future of Solar?




With solar adoption accelerating rapidly due to climate change and rising energy costs, it was just a matter of time before someone focused on the aesthetics of solar. After all, there's no reason that it can't be both functional and beautiful. SmartFlower, a Boston-based company, aimed to do just that by creating a solution that combines cutting-edge technology with a sculptural design. Their homepage states that "the word beautiful has been missing from the solar industry's vocabulary until now."


The HBCU Clean Energy Initiative committed to developing clean energy projects on and off HBCU and MSI campuses, debuted SmartFlower Solar at the 2022 National HBCU Conference Week. The event, hosted by the White House Initiative, focused on advancing educational equity, excellence, and economic opportunity through HBCUs. The Smartflower's architectural design, capacity, and smartphone control access enables HBCU campuses and the communities surrounding them to embrace solar in a new way.


But what is a SmartFlower exactly?

The SmartFlower is a low-cost, battery-powered sculpture that can be controlled through a smartphone application. This SmartFlower system has an annual energy output of 3,800-6,200 kWh. The sculptural form moves throughout the day with a dual-axis tracker, which enables it to intelligently track the sun making up to 40% more energy than traditional stationary solar panels.


What are the advantages compared to rooftop solar?

There are other advantages compared to a rooftop solar system, such as the SmartFlower being ground-mounted. That means avoiding the potential limitations when installing rooftop panels which may involve customizations to account for roof type, sun orientation, and space availability. The flower also has 12 'petals' with solar cells, which open when the sun comes out at the beginning of the day. When the petals close, they clean themselves with brushes added to each panel's back. Lastly, the SolarFlower is also self-contained in that it contains all the hardware and other components within itself, so it can be installed quickly and disassembled. According to the company, installation takes just two or three hours, and it can similarly be uninstalled and moved to a new property in just as much time.


What are the other unique features?

· Smart Cooling – The system includes rear ventilation to keep the module up to 18°F cooler than it would be otherwise. This helps the solar cell's efficiency, as solar panels function differently in varying temperatures.

· Smart Safety – The innovative solar panel system monitors weather conditions, using that information to decide when to open and when it should fold together for protection.

· Smart System –You can access information about your system whenever you have access to the paired mobile app. You can also control the system with this app and engage in other features.


What does it cost?

The SmartFlower is slightly more expensive than traditional solar rooftop systems, although prices across the board are predicted to go down. Before applying for all incentives and tax credits, the SmartFlower solar panel system can be $30,000 or higher. However, after considering the 30% Residential Clean Energy Credit created by the Inflation Reduction Act and other state incentives, the cost comes down substantially.


Summary

The SmartFlower combines functionality with beauty, providing an aesthetically pleasing alternative to traditional solar systems. It takes less time to install and can easily be moved to another location if necessary. So, while the cost is slightly higher, the SmartFlower is a creative solution for HBCU campus buildings that combines cutting-edge technology, beautiful design, and efficiency.


To learn more about the HBCU Clean Energy Initiative (CEI), click here.


To learn more about the HBCU Community Development Action Coalition, click here.


To read more HBCU CEI blogs, click here.

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