Ariel Schwartz wrote for Inhabitant.com 17 August 2009, Solar Sunflower Field Energizes Austin, Texas
A retail lot in Austin, Texas recently sprouted a stunning field of solar sunflowers that soak up the sun’s rays to provide shade while generating a steady stream of renewable energy. Designed by public art team Harries/Heder, the installation consists of 15 flower-like solar photovoltaic panels located on a pedestrian and bike path between the village of Mueller and Austin’s highway I-35. According to Harries/Heder, the flowers are “an icon for the sustainable, LEED certified Mueller Development and a highly visible metaphor for the energy conscious City of Austin.”
Are these solar sunflowers practically profitable? Perhaps:
In addition to providing shade for walkers and bikers, the solar flowers collect energy during the day to power the installation’s blue LED lights at night. Leftover power is sent to the grid to offset the cost of maintaining the installation.But practicality of this particular field of solar flowers is not the point.
This is the point:
When construction on Mueller, a mixed-use urban village in Austin, Texas first began nearly a decade ago, developers set up a number of environmental and aesthetic rules to safeguard the green spaces and keep the town from taking on an industrial feel. So when a massive retail lot was proposed, Mueller agreed to let it be built on one condition: loading docks behind the stores had to be covered up. Enter Sunflowers, An Electric Garden — Austin’s largest public art installation.Austin is the sort of place that cares about art, renewable energy, walking, bicycles, and the environment. That’s the sort of place that attracts clean industry with real jobs for local people.
What do you see when you drive along IH-35 right through the center of Austin, the capital of Texas? You see a sign advertising the stores in that shopping center and those purple solar sunflowers.
Does the landscaping our local governments is doing at I-75 exits practical? Will it produce electricity or generate a profit directly? No. These sunflowers actually do that, plus they are beacons attracting more clean industry. We could do the same or better. Yes, yes, I know we’re not Austin, but solar prices have come down quite a bit even in the three years since 2009. What kind of solar beacon could we buy for what we’re spending to beautify I-75 exits?