5 Futuristic Solar Panels Inspired By Nature

Alternative energy never looked so natural.

Solar energy is clearly part of the solution to the problem of dwindling fossil-fuel reserves. It’s increasingly cheap, it’s the target of huge quantities of investment and entrepreneurship, thanks to innovations like CSP (Concentrating Solar Power). But if you flinch at the idea of a world dominated by flat panels and vaguely sinister solar receiver towers, take heart: many designers are looking at the natural world for inspiration. Here are 5 gorgeous examples of that ethos at work.

1. Light Bird: inspired by birds fanning their wings to catch the sun’s warmth, the Light Bird opens its panels during the day and clams shut when the sun goes down to light the way, LED style. Currently a prototype; we hope it takes flight.

2. Solar Tree. No need to wonder what inspired this design. It’s already installed at St. John’s Square, London, and it features a computer intelligence that can judge exactly how much light to emit after dark based on its battery levels and surrounding light levels.

3. Spherical Collector. The eye is an extremely efficient collector of light – and this ball lens design follows its example by focusing light on a collector with a 35% efficiency improvement over traditional photovoltaic designs.

4. Corona Solar Light. There are two ways you can go with solar energy collection: a small number of huge panels or a huge number of small ones. The Corona is designed to cover your garden like an invasion of funghi, and since it requires no batteries or wires, it can go anywhere.

5. Solar Ivy. But as a demonstration of the “small & more” philosophy at work, it’s hard to beat Solar Ivy – an array of tiny panels designed to look like they’re crawling up the side of your house!

Images: Solar Ivy; Apartment Therapy; designboom (1) (2); Yanko Design.

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.