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Solar Panels and Art: The Most Impressive Global Installations


Solar Panels and Art: The Most Impressive Global Installations

It was only a matter of time before the art world embraced this technology to create new works. Artists around the world have now reinterpreted solar technology, incorporating various shapes and colors into their environments and surprising audiences. Interpretations range from playfully naive to practical and efficiency-focused solutions, with everything in between. However, all these objects share one common purpose: they use solar energy to generate electricity that is used in some beneficial way.


The Fusion of Technology and Aesthetics: An Introduction

Fundamentally, technology is meant to make human life more comfortable. With this premise, solar technology provides ample ground for art to rethink existing concepts or to create new products. Art is a discipline not bound by conventions, its outputs are not tied to any financial statements, and it does not originate on the drawing board with the aim of achieving profit targets. Therefore, there is no sensible or nonsensical art. Everyone experiences art individually, yet sometimes it can inspire new ideas for the public good. Art can give impulses to the economy through its unrestricted and liberal perspective.


European Masterpieces: Solar Art Installations That Inspire

In 2012, British artist Ross Lovegrove unveiled his Solar Tree at Clerkenwell Design Week in London. The Solar Tree lights up London's St. Johns Square at night with its stored solar energy. A total of 20 green stems rise toward the sky, gradually turning white at the top, and at their ends are round solar surfaces pointing toward the sky. A circular bench at the base of the object invites pedestrians to linger. The Solar Tree is capable of adapting its lighting to environmental conditions through an artificial intelligence system and can operate autonomously for up to three days. Unlike conventional street lamps, its design, shapes, and colors exude naturalness and friendliness.


Inspiring Solar Art from Asia and the Middle East

It is also interesting to look at other parts of the world and their interpretations. Solar technology has long been an important part of architecture, also known as solar architecture. A particularly impressive example of solar architecture is Terminal 2 at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea. The building was designed based on the concept of the Korean phoenix and is intended to symbolize longevity, strength, and balance. The entire curved roof surface is lined with solar panels, so part of the airport's required energy comes from its own production. The design of the solar panels is adapted to the architectural specifications. But not only the roof surfaces, the overall concept of the airport is based on sustainability. Wooden floors from local cultivation, gardens, and water features within the airport for better air conditioning, and many other artistically implemented ideas underscore this.


America and Africa: A Continent, Many Solar-Powered Artworks

Both continents have an abundance of solar energy and people who approach the subject in an artistic way. In addition to countless installations that also attempt to interpret solar power generation through visual approximations to the plant world, there are also unusual and more innovative solar installations. Solar Powered Sculptures are very popular. For example, at Tucson International Airport, a sculpture was installed that symbolizes a taking-off airplane. The sculpture is several meters high. From the ground to the tail of the plane stretches a trail that begins to glow at night through solar technology, giving the impression that the aircraft is ascending. The object "Spirit of Southern Arizona" was created by regional artist Stephen Fairfield and unveiled in 2012. The designer Emily Taylor and the electrical engineer and solar energy advocate Patrick Marcus were also involved. The display changes constantly, so the sculpture appears in constantly changing colors and patterns.

In Africa, the German-Namibian artist Max Siedentopf has set up a quite unique installation in the Namibian desert. On several white pedestals, the artist installed small boxes and playback devices that play the song "Africa" by the music group Toto continuously, powered by solar energy. Visitors who happen upon this spot may hardly believe their eyes. The installation expresses a deep appreciation by the artist for pop culture and is intended to play until the end of time.

Of course, the primary focus of solar energy utilization, given the currently pressing concerns about the climate vital for humanity's survival, is on the very unartistic production of electricity. However, art shows us ways to integrate seemingly practical solutions into our daily lives through special forms and alternative uses. In this way, the object contributes positively to our well-being, as art has been able to do for many centuries. Therefore, it is important to allow installations like a solar-powered airport as well as installations in the Namibian desert.

Show more entries from August 2023