SmartFlower Solar produces unique, ground-mounted solar panel systems that include a sun tracker and a number of other high-tech features. This ‘smart’ solar panel system is an all-in-one, self-sustaining system that differs greatly from the traditional monocrystalline or polycrystalline rooftop panels.
Smartflower was founded in Austria, a country steeped in a heritage of design, innovation, and manufacturing excellence. Energy Management Inc. (EMI), a Boston, MA corporation with over 43 years of experience developing large energy projects, acquired Smartflower in 2018.
A global shift towards renewable energy has been observed in the past few years. In addition to the wide-scale adoption of the existing renewable energy technologies, countries across the world have been focusing on developing new ones. One such innovation is smartflower, an intelligent all-in-one solar system by Austria-based company smartflower energy technology GmbH.
The product was conceptualised by Alexander Swatek, founder, smartflower, during a discussion on the complicated installation of traditional rooftop systems. In a bid to launch the first all-in-one highly efficient solar system, the flower blossom design of smartflower was invented. The product is designed as a flower with petals made up of solar modules. During sunrise, these petals automatically clean themselves and then open up to cover an area of 18 square metres. The system faces the sun and keeps moving with it throughout the day, using dual-axis tracking, thereby maximising the solar energy generation. The nominal output of the smartflower system is 2.31 kWp with output ranging from 3,400 kWh to 6,200 kWh per annum, depending on the region. The self-utilisation of the generated energy for a residential set-up is around 60 per cent (it goes up to 90 per cent with its product, smartflower POP+).
The harvested energy can also be stored with integrated batteries and synchronised with smart home automation via mobile devices, preventing owners from relying on the grid. The smartflower system can provide 50 per cent more efficiency as compared to a traditional rooftop system, owing to various features that are as follows:
Established in 2010, the company has offices in Güssing and Vienna, Austria. It produces the panels in association with its partner Energetica. With manufacturing facilities in Pinkafeld, Austria, the company aims to maintain the high quality of its product, as against mass production under critical and non-controllable circumstances. At present, its facilities produce about 150 units per month. Since its inception, more than 1,000 units have been installed in 20 European countries. The recommended retail price in Austria starts at Euro 15,000 including 20 per cent value added tax. The standard product warranty in Europe, the US and Canada is two years, which can be extended further. The product is sold through a worldwide network of authorised distribution partners. The company has received numerous awards such as the Green Good Design 2016 award, the Red Dot 2016 award, the Born Global Champion 2015 award, and the Sustainable Entrepreneur Award 2015. In July 2016, the company launched its products in North America and is currently focusing on the European and US markets. It is also foraying into the markets of Canada, Latin America and the Middle East. In the future, the company sees India, South Africa and the Southeast Asia region as high-potential markets for its products.
Going forward, smartflower aims to continue producing smart, attractive and easy-to-handle solar systems for residential and industrial users all over the world. It also plans to tap the upcoming opportunities in the e-mobility segment as well as offer integrated storage systems in remote areas.
In 2010, the three founders of smartflower energy technology GmbH were living in Austria and brainstorming ways to circumvent the myriad issues plaguing the solar energy market. They knew many prospective users of clean energy were uninspired by the appearance of classic rooftop solar panels. These potential consumers were also unlikely to want to undergo the multi-part, multiday installation process.
While rooftop-mounted panels are more common than ground-mounted arrays, their feasibility can be restricted by roof type, angle, and direction. Moreover, they require a roof that is expected to last at least 20 years – meaning that a solar system purchaser might need to replace his or her roof before the panel installation process can even begin.
With an eye toward creating a system to solve these problems, founder Alexander Swatek and his two co-founders drew the concept for smartflower on a napkin one evening. They paid careful attention to the device’s aesthetic, knowing their end result would need to be characterized by both creativity and convenience.
The outcome – smartflower – lives up to its name, both in terms of the floral arrangement of its photovoltaic panels and its ability to autonomously adjust its panels on two axes to ensure maximal solar energy absorption.
Several years after the initial sketch, energy industry influencer Jim Gordon hopped on a plane to Austria after spotting a picture of smartflower online. His eagerness to establish a relationship with its company led to the formation of SmartFlower North America, where Gordon is now CEO.
Now the distributor for smartflower energy technology GmbH, SmartFlower North America assists homeowners, businesses, and municipalities throughout the smartflower procurement process. After researching and assisting the customer in securing the necessary permits, smartflower’s representatives conduct a property analysis to ascertain the optimal location for the device. In keeping with its founders’ intentions, smartflower then arrives fully assembled and ready for installation by a certified smartflower technician. It requires 16 x 16 x 16 feet of space for operation and can begin generating electricity within hours of installation. As of February 2018, more than 1,000 smartflower units have been installed worldwide.
The word ‘smart’ has been thrown in front of thousands of products over the past decade to highlight a range of value. The SmartFlower solar panel system, however, definitely deserves this title.
The distinct design of the SmartFlower system directly influences the way it functions. The SmartFlower consists of 12 ‘petals’ which open up at the beginning of the day when the sun comes out. The solar cells are added to these petals and when the petals close at the end of the day, they also clean themselves through brushes that are added to the back of each panel.
This self-cleaning quality of the SmartFlower module is one of two unique features that separate it from other ground-mounted, sun-tracking solar panel systems.
The second feature that makes the SmartFlower special is that it is self-containing. This means that it contains all of the hardware and other components within itself so that it can be easily installed 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.
Rooftop solar panel systems, on the other hand, typically take half a day to an entire day to install because you have to prepare the rooftop, add racks, screw in and wire each panel, and then connect all of that to an inverter, which ultimately connects the system back into the electrical grid.
Some of the other features that the SmartFlower includes are:
All of these features make this a unique system that sticks out from its competitors… but, that is just in terms of design. Now, let’s talk about the numbers.
Among all the benefits of solar panels, the most important thing is that solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. It can be harnessed in all areas of the world and is available every day. We cannot run out of solar energy, unlike some of the other sources of energy.
Solar energy will be accessible as long as we have the sun, therefore sunlight will be available to us for at least 5 billion years when according to scientists the sun is going to die.
Since you will be meeting some of your energy needs with the electricity your solar system has generated, your energy bills will drop. How much you save on your bill will be dependent on the size of the solar system and your electricity or heat usage.
For example, if you are a business using commercial solar panels this switch can have huge benefits because the large system size can cover large chunks of your energy bills.
Moreover, not only will you be saving on the electricity bill, but there is also a possibility to receive payments for the surplus energy that you export back to the grid through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). If you generate more electricity than you use (considering that your solar panel system is connected to the grid).
Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes. You can generate electricity (photovoltaics) or heat (solar thermal). Solar energy can be used to produce electricity in areas without access to the energy grid, to distil water in regions with limited clean water supplies and to power satellites in space.
Solar energy can also be integrated into the materials used for buildings. Not long ago Sharp introduced transparent solar energy windows.
Solar energy systems generally don’t require a lot of maintenance. You only need to keep them relatively clean, so cleaning them a couple of times per year will do the job.
The initial cost of purchasing a solar system is fairly high. This includes paying for solar panels, inverter, batteries, wiring, and the installation. Nevertheless, solar technologies are constantly developing, so it is safe to assume that prices will go down in the future.
Although solar energy can still be collected during cloudy and rainy days, the efficiency of the solar system drops. Solar panels are dependent on sunlight to effectively gather solar energy. Therefore, a few cloudy, rainy days can have a noticeable effect on the energy system. You should also take into account that solar energy cannot be collected during the night.
Solar energy has to be used right away, or it can be stored in large batteries. These batteries, used in off-the-grid solar systems, can be charged during the day so that the energy is used at night. This is a good solution for using solar energy all day long but it is also quite expensive.
In most cases, it is smarter to just use solar energy during the day and take energy from the grid during the night (you can only do this if your system is connected to the grid). Luckily your energy demand is usually higher during the day so you can meet most of it with solar energy
The more electricity you want to produce, the more solar panels you will need, as you want to collect as much sunlight as possible. Solar PV panels require a lot of space and some roofs are not big enough to fit the number of solar panels that you would like to have.
An alternative is to install some of the panels in your yard but they need to have access to sunlight. If you don’t have the space for all the panels that you wanted, you can opt for installing fewer to still satisfy some of your energy needs.
Although pollution related to solar energy systems is far less compared to other sources of energy, solar energy can be associated with pollution. Transportation and installation of solar systems have been associated with the emission of greenhouse gases.
There are also some toxic materials and hazardous products used during the manufacturing process of solar photovoltaic systems, which can indirectly affect the environment.
Nevertheless, solar energy pollutes far less than other alternative energy sources.
Based on fan static and body battery drop test simulations it can be concluded that the solar Smart flower-designed can
be forwarded to the fabrication stage. This fact is reinforced by the simulation results that show despite the static or drop
test loads but parts of the solar Smart flower-designed do not change shape. The Department of energy released a report
outlining how solar could supply nearly half of the nation’s electricity by 2050. Through heavy spending, solar would
rise to power 3% of the nation’s electricity in 2022 by 40% by 2035.
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