For most people, solar energy conjures up images of rectangular panels on roofs or lined up in rows somewhere in the middle of the desert. And indeed, this is what we can expect to see over the next few years, as Israel begins to develop its most significant natural (and renewable) resource – the sun.
But how will the next generation of solar energy look? Could solar energy production transcend its sterile, technical image and become an element that actually enriches the landscape?
Here is a good example of how it could do just that.
“Solar Lily Pads” by Peter Richardson of ZM Architecture, won an international design competition for its proposal to revive the Glasgow waterfront by integrating solar energy into the urban landscape. Richardson envisioned floating solar panels, tethered to the riverbed in Glasgow’s Clyde River, which would be rotated by small motors to follow the movement of the sun through the sky.
The proposal, whose form was inspired by the lily pad, has been submitted to the Glasgow city council in the hope that it will approve a trial project.
Could the idea work in Israel? Our rivers may be narrow and shady, but we have an abundance of bays, reservoirs and marinas where photovoltaic panels could be integrated into the environment in one way or another.
Take the Mediterranean coastline, for example, along which most of the country’s population lives. Unlike artificial islands (like the one proposed off Tel Aviv), offshore oil rigs or even wind turbines, floating solar collectors would not mar the landscape, and would even add to the sea view if placed close enough to the coast. Picture looking down on Haifa Bay from the Bahai Gardens and seeing a string of pearl-like solar panels floating in the distance.
Creatively designed solar panels floating in Israel’s reservoirs could not only save land, but could also transform technical facilities into interesting places that attract tourists and vacationers.
Eilat’s waterfront promenade, circa 2020?
In the past, technologies were created with built-in flaws (pollution, ugliness, noise) that we just had to live with, for lack of a better alternative.
Today, not only can we develop clean technologies that do not pollute our environment, we can actually design them so that they enrich the way we experience places.
Our decision-makers and technocrats have not yet realized this, and still relate to infrastructure as a necessary evil – something which creates negative externalities that must be minimized as much as possible. It’s our job to convince them that we can have our cake and eat it too.
Images Via:: ZM Architecture