Solar trees take root at the University of California
September 9, 2008 The University of California in San Diego (UCSD) is undertaking an unusual forestry project on the roof of two of its parking garages. The “Solar Trees” being constructed on the roofs will comprise steel components fitted with a canopy of Kyocera photovoltaic modules to provide solar energy for the university.
Aside from clean energy for the campus, the Solar Trees will provide shade for vehicle parking and future infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, as well as providing some visual relief from the mundane offerings of most roof-top garages.
The design of the Solar Tree and Solar Grove, from Envision CEO Robert Noble, is based on natural trees, with trunks and branches supporting a shade canopy. According to Noble, the idea is to add beauty and form to the functionality of solar power generation. Each Solar Tree at UCSD will generate more than 17,000 hours of clean energy per year, which is enough to power more than four single-family homes and avoid 13.2 metric tons of carbon emissions.
Originally designed for Kyocera Solar, the highly customizable Solar Grove solution lends itself to a variety of surroundings. Each grove can be sized and positioned to meet the needs of the facility and the single support column per tree allows for unhindered maneuverability about the parking area. Unique heavy-duty light fixtures turn on automatically at dusk and shine up toward the canopy, which illuminates the parking area for nighttime safety and translucent solar modules act like leaves to allow dappled sunlight to pass through. The tilted canopies of Solar Trees also help to route and filter rainwater run-off.