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Solar-powered trees are planted in Israel to charge phones, cool water and offer Wi-Fi

All trees convert sunlight into chemical energy, but now there are trees that convert sunlight into power to charge devices, cool water, offer free Wi-Fi and more for the benefit of their surrounding communities. Thanks to an imaginative idea from an Israeli company called Sologic, solar-powered trees are taking root to raise environmental awareness while providing green energy.

The eTree comprises a metal trunk that branches out to support solar panels instead of leaves. The structure, which looks like a pixelated tree in an 8-bit video game, uses the energy captured by the solar panels to provide USB charging outlets for smartphones and tablets, free Wi-Fi, a water trough for pets, a drinking-water fountain for humans, nighttime lighting and informational LCD screens.

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“We’re used to seeing big companies working on large-scale systems,” says Michael Lasry, founder of Sologic. “Now we see solar energy becoming accessible to each one of us on the street.”

The first eTrees were unveiled Thursday at the HaNadiv Gardens near Zikhron Ya’akov in Israel. Sologic has plans to sell more of these solar-powered trees in China and France.

One Acacia model eTree (the kind planted in Israel) costs about $100,000. A seven-panel version can generate up to 1.4 kilowatts, which is enough to run 35 laptops.

The big price tag means the eTree probably won’t replace traditional rooftop solar panels, but it has a chance at becoming a popular eye-pleasing fixture in parks across the globe, according to Eli Barnea, an investor in Israel’s largest private power company.

Sologic foresees future eTrees utilizing cameras along with touchscreen displays to enable someone standing beneath one solar-powered tree to say hello to someone else standing beneath another eTree planted anywhere in the world.