Solar Blossoms in Austin – SunFlowers, An Electric Garden

I’ve not been to Austin a lot – a few times for working and visiting – but this is the kind of project I would want to see if I lived there.  Meet the SunFlowers, a photovoltaic sculpture garden that collects solar energy and turns it into night time light:

sunflower solar

A blurb from Good Mag on the project:

Comprised of 15 flower-shaped photovoltaic solar panels that line a pedestrian and bike path on the greenbelt between a retail lot and highway I-35, SunFlowers was unveiled on July 30. In such close proximity to a prominent highway, the 30-foot structures are, as Harries/Héder put it, “a highly visible metaphor for the energy-conscious city of Austin.” But because each one is a working solar collector, the art piece is both emblematic and functional.

The energy that the panels collect during the day is used, come nightfall, to power SunFlowers’ stunning blue LEDs, which illuminate the path below for bike-riders and walkers, and generally beautifying the area. An extra 15 kilowatts generated each day is fed back into the grid and used offset the costs of operation and maintenance.

What do you think of this installation? I’m actually a fan of projects like this – projects that use technology like solar tech and repurpose it in a dual role as art and civil lighting interest me.  The developer paid a large part of the project, and a grant was given for the materials.

Some information on the project from Mags Harries and Lajos Heder’s website – the creators of the SunFlowers project:

Location:      Austin, TX
Client:            Catellus Development Co.
Size:                30′ x 1000′ x 16′
Materials:     Photovoltaic solar collector panels, welded steel frames and stems, landforms and plantings
Budget:         $595,000:
$470,000 from the Developer
$75,000 from Austin Energy rebate
$50,000 grant from Applied Materials Inc.

The 15 SunFlowers that form the Electric Garden are sculptural solar collectors that generate solar energy for lighting at night. The additional 15 kilowatts of energy that they produce is fed into the electrical grid for credit, which will fund the maintenance and operating costs for the project. During the day they provide shade for a pedestrian/bicycle path and at night the LED’s in the SunFlowers’ stamens glow with blue light.
SunFlowers was initiated as a buffer to mask the loading docks at the edge of the Mueller Development from the I-35 highway.

To date, this is the largest public art project in the City of Austin.  SunFlowers is both an icon for the sustainable, LEED certified Mueller Development and a highly visible metaphor for the energy conscious City of Austin.

The custom-made solar collector panels have a blue crystalline surface and appear like a garden of huge flowers facing the northbound traffic on I-35.

More images of the project:

sunflower

sunflower austin

sunflower model

sunflower_rendering

sunflower_closeup

Thanks, Good and Core77!

3 replies
  1. Travis Bedard
    Travis Bedard says:

    this is about 10 whole minutes south of my house, and my official comment is: wait 5 years.
    The entire Mueller development still has all the scars of being freshly built and nothing feels organically part of the (vaguely rundown) area. They are fascinating to look at, and the LEDs are interesting. But there is no context for them against the white brick Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond that they’re masking and the dirt frontage between them and the highway…

    So I look forward to seeing how the whole thing feels when it has settled into actually being part of the area.

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  1. […] Light and Photography, Lighting and the Environment, Lighting for Enjoyment!, greenA while ago I wrote about the Solar Sunflowers that are installed on the rear end of a retail park in Austin.  They’re large beautiful […]

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