James Cameron tests new design for solar panels

By Editor


Filmmaker and solar power evangelist James Cameron is testing out a solar panel arrangement that mimics the sunflower. Cameron himself played an important role in the actual design of the device.

Last month Cameron got the first such panel arrangement installed on the Malibu campus of the MUSE School, a non-profit focused on environmental learning which was cofounded by his wife Suzy Amis.

Cameron is known for his early adoption of solar technology. He had gotten a 50 kWh array installed on his Santa Barbara County property.

But the director considered solar panels ugly the way they were deployed. And he began exploring ways to improve the aesthetic appeal of the panels.

In his design, Cameron wanted to incorporate the ability to track the movement of the sun throughout the day. He also wanted the panels not to rely on the roof’s pitch for optimized installation.

A sketch by Cameron became the basis for the design and it was visualised by a computer graphics modeller from his Avatar team.

A structural engineer and then a fabricator realized the model. And in actual scale, the 33-foot-tall “flowers” feature clusters of panels that are individually welded and bolted together.

The 28.5-foot-wide installation includes five central panels surrounded by 14 “petals”. And the tracking technology for the project was provided by the solar company Sonnen, a report says.

The technology uses astronomic data to calculate the sun’s position and optimally align the panels accordingly.

According to Cameron, the grid-tied system is currently generating about 260 kWh a day. He now plans to test the integration of the project with Tesla’s Powerwall batteries for storage. Also the company has developed a dashboard tool that allows students to monitor energy generation in the classroom.

Rather than launch a solar startup himself to put these into production, Cameron is working to make all the design documents for the Sun Flowers open-source.

He has filed for a patent to prevent someone else from claiming authorship of the project. Cameron plans to post all the information pertaining to the design publicly once he obtains the patent.

Ajith Kumar S

[email protected]

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