Power Plants: Artificial Trees That Harvest Sun and Wind to Generate Electricity: Scientific American: "May 20, 2009 | 18 comments
Power Plants: Artificial Trees That Harvest Sun and Wind to Generate Electricity
A start-up proposes forests of fake trees with 'leaves' that soak up sunshine and flutter in the breeze to generate clean solar and wind power. Could it just be crazy enough to work?
By Adam Hadhazy
While on a train ride to visit his sister in the Netherlands in 2002, where monstrous wind turbines now mar scenic views, Alex van der Beek got an idea: Instead of ruining the natural landscape with conventional technology, why not generate electricity from something that blends in—a fake tree?
Van der Beek—whose previous professional experience was teaching alternative medicine—founded Solar Botanic, Ltd., in London last year on the concept. Solar Botanic's ambitious plan involves bringing together three different energy-generation technologies—photovoltaics (aka solar power, or electricity from visible sunlight), thermoelectrics (electricity from heat) and piezoelectrics (electricity from pressure)—all in the unassuming shape of a leaf on its stem.