There’s a new 16-ft, ground-mounted, solar-paneled “smartflower” at the Detroit Zoo. It is the first of its kind to be installed, not only in Michigan, but in any zoo in the country.
Sunflowers turn their blossoms to face the sun to make optimum use of the light, increasing their growth rate. The creators of smartflower based the system to function similarly through the use of a GPS-based dual-axis tracker. The system features 12 solar panels–shaped to mimic petals–that follow the sun throughout the day. When the sun rises in the morning, the smartflower unfolds and aims its panels to the sky to begin producing energy. The petals will automatically close again when the sun goes down, storing the excess energy. The system is expected to generate more than 4,000 kW of electricity annually, enough to power the zoo’s carousel and other areas.