SolarBotanic Trees has reached two milestones in the development of its solar trees. It’s still at the prototype stage, but it is moving closer towards full-scale commercial production. An agreement has been made with experts at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to develop a field prototype for the integrated, scalable, and sustainable power generation system that can be commercially produced.
The second agreement is with Raw Charging Group, which has ordered 200 co-branded solar trees to be part of a network of commercial electric vehicle charging sites currently being rolled out across the UK and Europe. Deliveries are expected to be in mid-2023 and be completed in 2024.
The trees have a dome made of nano photovoltaic “leaves” and are intended for aesthetically delicate locations. They can capture enough solar energy to power individual homes and charge electric vehicles, and their sleek design makes them easy on the environment as well.
The AMRC, which is part of the High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult network of research centers, is providing product development and design support to help build a functional prototype for testing.
John Spencer, senior project manager at the AMRC, says, “We are delighted to be working with the fantastic team at SolarBotanic Trees on the development of its energy-generating solar tree. The business has a great product that will play an important role in developing the infrastructure necessary to support the shift to zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs), a core part of the UK government’s net-zero strategy.”
“The AMRC will provide design and prototyping support to advance the product through a rapid development cycle, enabling the company to launch the first solar tree, fulfill its pre-orders, and gain traction in the EV charging market. SolarBotanic Trees’ vision to create carbon-reducing technologies aligns with the AMRC’s drive to support the high-value manufacturing sector on the journey to net zero,” Spencer adds.
Chris Shelley, CEO of SolarBotanic Trees, says, “With the AMRC bringing its design and prototyping expertise to the table it will help us accelerate commercialization. The team at the AMRC is a great partner for SolarBotanic Trees to deliver the prototype at speed using its world-class facilities and talent which will enable us to rapidly move to commercial production in the near future, starting with our launch order for 200 trees for RAW Charging Group, a high growth UK and EU focussed EV charging service provider.”
Other project participants include Brunel University in London, the Advanced Forming Research Centre in Scotland, the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry (MTC), the HVM Catapult, and the global logistics company Unipart.
The SolarBotanic Tree is a unique-looking solar power system that produces clean electricity. It will initially be integrated into the current RAW Charging site infrastructure to meet the site’s need for renewable energy, and in the long run, RAW’s leading hardware and battery storage will be integrated into the solar tree structure.
As 45% of drivers are expected to need to charge their EVs away from home, RAW is one of the major UK providers of EV charging solutions and is implementing destination charging across the UK and Europe.
Bruce Galliford, CEO of RAW Charging, said: “We are delighted to be working with SolarBotanic Trees on delivering aesthetically attractive solar power systems at our sites in the UK. This partnership is the next step in RAW’s delivery program as it rapidly grows its asset base across the UK and Europe.”
SolarBotanic CEO Chris Shelley commented: “This is a very exciting partnership, as we couldn’t ask for a more dynamic growth focussed partner in RAW Charging. This launch program is worth close to £3M, coming less than 6 weeks after we launched the new company. We now have over £25M in our sales pipeline from all over the world since we launched. Our challenge is unlikely to be the market, but more our ability to grow quickly enough to meet a clearly nascent demand. We are currently starting to look at various regional locations for our manufacturing and assembly center, a decision that will be driven by the availability of a skilled workforce and supply chain that can follow our rapid growth plan. Our founder Harry Corrigan’s 10-year vision for the Solar Tree is now becoming reality!”
The product concept has been in the making for many years. CleanTechnica first reported on this unique photovoltaic design back in 2008. Back then, many of the details on the solar tree were vague, and the problem is … they still are today. More details on the solar tree should emerge next year as they complete the prototype and bring it to market — if they do indeed get to that point. AMRC should have the completed prototype by the end of Q1 2023.
The commercial version of SolarBotanic Tree “v01” is being developed to be available in mid-2023 and version “v02” with an energy management system (EMS), battery storage, and rapid EV-charging system is expected to be available commercially in late 2023. A third version, “v03,” is expected to be available in 2025. It utilizes an advanced combination of wind and solar power generation modules.
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