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11 Must-See Art Installations, Inspired By Solar Panels

This post first appeared on Solar Power World
by Frank Andorka

We all know that solar is a practical, smart investment. It’s good for the environment, frees people to control their own electricity production and is one of the fastest-growing industries (read: JOB CREATORS) in the country. But one of the complaints (often heard from homeowners’ associations) is that solar panels are ugly.

We beg to differ — and apparently, so do artists around the world. Here are 11 of the most artful uses of solar panels we’ve ever seen.

1. Solar Installation, Zwickau, Saxony (Germany)


We love this installation in front of the Zwickau University of Applied Sciences in Zwickau, Saxony (Germany). Photographer André Karwath took the photo back in 2005. The goal is to increase the visibility of solar installations — as if Germany needed the help.

2. Solar Intersections, Davis, California (USA)


Soaring toward the sun, Solar Intersections is a commissioned work by renowned artist and educator Robert Behrens. The installation built in 1989 includes sixteen 70-foot-high steel poles coated with a special adhesive paint on which solar panels are placed. Framed by crate myrtle trees and perennial flowers planted in a checkerboard pattern, the artist created an entire setting to reflect the place in which his work is displayed.

3. The Silicon Forest, Portland, Oregon (USA)


Where else but Portland, right? Local artist Brian Borrello is a visual artist, designer, educator and public artist. His experience with a broad array of sculptural and graphic techniques, and a versatile range of conceptual approaches is evident in his paintings, sculptures and public art pieces. As a visual artist, Brian is particularly interested in creating awareness of human life in balance with other life forms and with our shared environment. In his art for the public realm, he seizes opportunities to make ‘places’ by activating urban spaces through image, form and symbol, in response to history, community and context.The Silicon Forest is powered by solar panels and can be seen at the Interstate/Rose Quarter Station in Portland.

4. Seed-Pod, Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA)


Birmingham, Ala. artist Dee Dee Morrison is quickly becoming one of our favorites. Listen to her describe her own work: “As a sculptor and installation artist, my work has been influenced by my interest in biological forms and light; coupled with the interest in the natural world is a fascination for technical and scientific advances. As a result, a unique style has evolved to reflect my understanding of the natural world by using heavy industrial metals, laser jet cutting methods and organically inspired designs to create solar powered sustainable sculptures.” How cool is that?

Morrison’s sculpture is an artistic representation of a seed pod coming out of a dormant state to form new life. But it’s more than just a display of nature’s beauty. Seed-Pod is also a visual display of the power and energy that’s available every day in the sun’s warming rays.

(SPOILER ALERT: You’ll see another of Dee Dee’s works later.)

5. Energetic Energies, Milan (Italy)


Japanese architect and sculptor Akihisi Hirata introduced the world to two solar-inspired installations at Milan Design Week showing how solar panels could be used in the future to power entire cities. According to the All That Is Interesting blog, Hirata had this to say about his goal with the pieces:

“Nature is three-dimensional and filled with living organisms. Future cities should be similar if they are to coexist with nature. And solar panels hold greater potential to actually create more livable cities, aesthetically speaking, than their current form suggests.”

We couldn’t agree more.

6. Solar Peace Sculpture, Moving Exhibit


We love this piece by Fred George, inspired as it is by Gerald Holtom´s 1958 emblem for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, known as the peace sign. According to GreenParenthood, he awareness raising sculpture depicts the peace symbol and focuses on the importance of using sustainable energy by using solar energy. The sculpture stands fifty eight feet tall and is made of eighty recycled metal oil barrels. A solar panel is attached on each of every barrel and the harnessed energy is fed back to the city’s electrical grid. The proceeds from that energy are then donated to charities.

7. Solar Glacier, TBD


OK, this is an artist’s rendering (by artist Ap Verheggen, who also happens to be the UNESCO-IHE’s cultural ambassador) of the SunGlacier project, which combines art and the practical aim of bringing cleaning water to people who don’t have it, using the power of solar panels to achieve it.

The name SunGlacier embraces the contrast between ice and desert. At the same time it covers the counter-intuitive aim of the project to create ice in the desert by making use of the energy of the sun. You can follow the progress of the project on Facebook.

8. Solar Sun-Catcher, Clearwater, Florida (USA)


Here’s our second Dee Dee Morrison project (what can we say? We love her work.), this one in Clearwater, Fla. From our friends over at

A new solar-powered Sun-Catcher lighting installation recently popped up in Clearwater, Fla., where it brightens the night using energy from the sun. Part of the city’s Sculpture360 program, the 15-foot-tall Sun-Catcher was made by Deedee Morrison’s studio. It’s built from recycled aluminum and striking yellow lucite panels. An integrated solar panel captures the sun’s energy during daylight hours and lights up the sculpture — and downtown Clearwater — at night.

We just think it’s cool.

9. Spherical Solar Concentrated Solar Generator


Like Ap Verhegen, architect André Broessel created this concentrated solar generator for two purposes: art (we think it’s gorgeous) and science. Our friends over at The Verge wrote:

André Broessel’s spherical glass solar energy generator is one of the more elegant examples of concentrated photovoltaics technology we’ve come across. . . .Broessel’s generator utilizes a ball lens (complete with optical tracking) to achieve higher energy efficiency than typical PV units — up to 35 percent, according to his tests. . . Broessel’s structure is an impressive feat that borders on art, and it’s nice to see fresh innovation when it comes to improving solar tech.

10. Lunar Cubit Solar Panel Pyramids, Abu Dhabi


If you didn’t think there was any way to improve on the architectural marvels that are the Egyptian pyramids, think again. From Materialicious:

Lunar Cubit, is a pyramid-shaped solar power complex designed by Robert Flottemesch, Jen DeNike, Johanna Ballhaus, and Adrian P. De Luca to power thousands of homes in the Abu Dhabi desert.

The proposal placed first in the Land Art Generator Initiative, a contest which asks designers to integrate art and interdisciplinary processes with the concept of renewable energy. Each proposed project must generate enough green energy to power thousands of homes, while also serving as an innovative public art installation.

And from Inhabitat:

Lunar Cubit consists of eight small glossy solar panel pyramids that surround a central large pyramid in a semi circle. . . .By day, the pyramids function as solar energy-producing power plants. Each of the frameless solar panels is made of glass and amorphous silicon, and they’re able to produce enough renewable energy to power 250 homes. That may not seem as productive as a solar power farm, yet it is truly exceptional considering it is also a public art installation. If actually constructed, Lunar Cubit would pay back its cost of construction in five years, through the megawatt-hours of clean renewable energy that it produces.

11. The Sun Boxes, Everywhere


Wouldn’t you love to have these at your next backyard BBQ? From Earthtechling:

The Sun Boxes, created by Craig Colorusso, are a collection of solar-powered speakers that can be arranged in any space as an installation and, when operating, emit soothing chords. The concept behind the Son Boxes is to encourage people to slow down and appreciate their surroundings, typically the outdoors. The solar panels not only allow them to be clean and easily transportable (no wires), but they add to the idea of interacting with and being part of the natural world.

Colorusso’s installation hits a trifecta of our favorite things here at Solar Power World: solar, music and art. We’ll just sit back in the sun (Yes, Virginia, there is sun in the CLE) and enjoy.

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