Solar lily concept has energy sitting pretty

Posted by Jeanne Roberts, EarthTechling

A Green Dot Award winner from ZM Architecture in the U.K. uses the concept of large lily pads, modified to attain the highest possible level of photosynthesis, as the central principle of this nature-inspired repurposing of unused waterways to capture solar energy on a utility scale.

In doing so, the design also hopes to stimulate activity around the multitude of unused and largely ignored canals, rivers and tributaries around the globe, perhaps by encouraging neighborhood revitalization or the construction of new, energy efficient green housing, or simply an influx of tradespeople large and small to provide a riverside shopping and dining experience like a large, open mall.

ZM Architecture calls its winning entry "Solar Lily," and imagines that these approximately 100-foot diameter constructs are anchored to the riverbed and turned via integrated motors that function as the equivalent of solar tracking devices used on land. That is, they turn the lily pads to optimize solar collection during the day. The solar lilies can also be disconnected, dismantled and moved should the situation require it.

Given the stamp of approval at the 2007 International Design awards, and taking second place at the 2008 Green Dot Awards, the solar lilies have drawn attention from municipal agencies and other organizations in Asia, Brazil, Europe and Korea. They were also shown in Vilnius, Lithuania, at the 2009 European Capital of Culture  exhibition, Vilnius being one of two cities to capture that cultural award, and at  the National Design Triennial.

The solar lily pad concept was tested in one small output canal on the River Clyde, Scotland, and the Glasgow City Council has intimated it would like to test the solar lilies, again on the river, with the cooperation of the Glasgow Science Museum, which opened its door in 2001.

The solar lilies are not to be confused with the iPad's solar charging case called the LilyPad, which we reported on last year, or with the concentrating solar technology used in the floating solar panel prototype by Solaris Energy and EDF Group, which was also launched in 2011.

Jeanne Roberts, EarthTechling