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Gaurav Agnihotri

Gaurav Agnihotri

Gaurav Agnihotri, a Mechanical engineer and an MBA -Marketing from ICFAI (Institute of Chartered Financial Accountants), Mumbai, is a result oriented and a business focused…

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Are “Palm Trees” The Next Step In Solar Energy’s Evolution?

Solar energy quickly gaining attention as the most attractive form of new electricity generation as there have been some substantial investments in the solar energy sector of late.

In fact, more than 50 percent of the total investments in new electricity generation around the world was made in renewable energy. A report made by PWC and the University of Cambridge for the national bank of Abu Dhabi stated that the world invested around $150 billion into solar energy in 2014. “As Government and utilities are driven to bring new generation capacity on stream, this new reality (Solar energy) presents a significant opportunity to make savings, reduce fuel cost risks, achieve climate ambitions and, at the same time, keep more oil and gas available for export,” said the report.

There have been some interesting innovations in the field of solar energy sector, such as the creation of ‘community solar gardens’ in the United States. In another interesting development, a Dubai based company called D Idea has recently launched a ‘smart palm’ solar tree that is providing free Wi-Fi, mobile charging docks and information through touch screen panels to the residents of Dubai, all through the power of sun. Related: Coal Isn’t Dead Yet

The ‘smart-palm’ tree in the desert?

The ‘smart palm’ solar trees are nothing but tree shaped solar panels that are capable of generating close to 7.2 kWh per day of energy. The photovoltaic panels (with a leaf like shape) are capable of generating enough power to remain independent of the grid. As of now, the two smart palm trees have been installed at Dubai’s Zabeel Park and at a beach near Burj Al Arab hotel.

The solar trees may seem like a small contribution to the power sector, but new innovations could push the technology forward. The next generation of the solar palm will be 3D printed, an intriguing development that could allow for expanded manufacturing, although costs have not been disclosed.

D Idea claims that it has even better plans with its smart palm tree. “Subsequent Smart Palms will have ATM machines and utility bill payment services. Our team has also started to find new ways in which the Smart Palm can support other forms of sustainable generation, specifically through air and water purification modules," said the company’s CEO Victor Nelepa. Smart palm trees are designed to withstand more extreme climates, as they are made of concrete and fiber re-enforced plastic, which makes them extremely practical and user friendly for countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, U.S., India etc. Related: Canada’s Oilfield Service Sector Battered By Low Prices

Image Courtesy: Smart palm

Could we see this kind of a technology spreading?

It is technological advancements like the solar tree that are allowing some of the largest producers of oil and gas to achieve milestones in the renewable energy sector. In the year 2014, The Dubai Electricity and Water Board Authority created a new global benchmark for utility scale PV costs. It actually showed that its 200 MW solar PV plant was cheaper than oil, even at an extremely low price level of $10 per barrel. For gas, it was cheaper even at $5 MMBtu. This shows that solar energy costs are reducing at a tremendous pace. Related: Why So Much Oil Price Volatility? Blame The Speculators

D Idea now intends to install around 103 smart palm trees in Dubai in the coming 12 months. Obviously Dubai is a special case, but there are high chances that this kind of technology would quickly spread to other countries, especially in its Asian counterparts like Saudi Arabia, India and China.

Recent reports have suggested that Saudi Arabia is planning to add close to 40 GW of solar power by the year 2032. For a country which utilizes a huge quantity of oil for its domestic electricity generation, something as innovative as a ‘smart palm’ tree can be a practical option that can be implemented on a large scale. Even India and China’s solar sector stands to gain from this as the option of getting ‘free services’ can attract large number of masses towards the renewable energy sources.

By Gaurav Agnihotri of Oilprice.com

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  • Kathleen King on September 01 2015 said:
    In looking at the photo provided, it seems that these structures can be oriented in such a way as to not merely capture maximum sunlight for power generation, but to provide shade for structures or other areas to make them cooler as well, duplicating a natural vegetative function. Further, the bases could be designed and insulated to provide and store hot water for heating and other household purposes, especially if one of the purposes of the structures is to power water purification or production.
    Very interesting concept.

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