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The nature-inspired Smartflower is a smart solar panel that follows the sunlight

Why it matters to you

Finding efficient ways to take advantage of renewable resources is key to a green future, and Smartflower opens up some intriguing new possibilities.

When it comes to soaking up the sun, don’t look to your over-tanned neighbor for pointers — look to your backyard autotrophs instead. We’re talking, of course, about plants, those cleverly engineered products of nature that understand better than just about anything the importance of solar power. So of course, it comes as little surprise that the latest solution for sustainable energy comes in the form of a giant sunflower … or rather, a solar panel that looks like a giant sunflower. Meet Smartflower, described as “a fully integrated, plug-and-play solar system that powers your world with clean energy.”

Not only does the Smartflower look an awful lot like overgrown flora, it behaves that way, too. You see, Smartflower does what natural flowers already know to do — follow the sun. At sunrise, this next generation solar panel unfolds itself, and sets its “petals” at a 90-degree angle in order to capture and produce energy. As the sun moves across the sky, the Smartflower adjusts itself accordingly until the sun finally sets, at which point the panel puts itself to sleep, folding back into itself. Similarly, if environmental conditions are not conducive to energy production (high winds, rain, etc.), Smartflower will protect itself and keep itself folded.

The Smartflower’s ability to follow the sun’s position is thanks to its GPS-based dual axis tracking, and because it’s always situated in the most efficient position, it claims to produce 40 percent more energy than traditional solar powers. It also doesn’t hurt that the Smartflower is self-cleaning — tiny brushes go to work every time the panel unfolds itself, cleaning the petals, and thereby improving efficiency by 5 percent.

As it stands, American customers will be able to get their hands on a Smartflower in mid-April. Already, around 1,000 units have found new homes across Europe, with some powering individual homes, while others gracing public spaces like the Botanical Gardens in Madrid, and a cafe in the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein in Austria. You can learn more about the Smartflower (and how to get one yourself) here.