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GM installs Tracking Solar Tree charging canopy in Warren

General Motors is introducing a solar charging canopy that moves with the sun. The Tracking Solar Tree is located at GM Company Vehicle Operations in Warren, Michigan.

Chevy Volts beneath the Solar Tree. Click to enlarge.

The Tracking Solar Tree, built by Envision Solar, features a hybrid multi-axis tracking design which enables the entire canopy to track the sun, increasing renewable energy production by about 25%. This structure will produce up to 30,000 kWh per year and provide enough solar energy to charge six electric vehicles per day.

We are constantly looking for places where we can add a renewable focus. This solar tree is an ideal addition because not only does it provide a space to charge our electric vehicles, but it’s another step in our journey toward cleaner energy use.

—Rob Threlkeld, GM global manager of renewable energy

GM derives energy for manufacturing operations from solar, hydro, and landfill gas resources. In the United States, 1.4% of GM energy consumption comes from renewable resources.



Will solar trees grow larger and produce seeds for the next generation as natural trees do?


This is excellent. We'd like to suggest that Rob consider replacing some grid delivered energy with alternatives like Bloom Box SOFC systems, or other cogeneration products.

Additionally GM needs to be exploring the soon to be introduced world of low low cost heat energy from LENR sources (announcement from Ames National Laboratory by Dr. Brian Ahern, December 7, 2011)

Brian Ahern received his PhD in material science from MIT, holds 26 patents and was a senior scientist for 17 years in research and development at USAF Rome Lab at Hanscom Air Force Base.


Positive move and results in Michigan weather should be instructive.

Reel$$, thx for the LENR link.


Additionally GM needs to be exploring the soon to be introduced world of low low cost heat energy from LENR sources

If you've got solar electric you've already got a source of low low cost heat so you don't really need another. The idea is called PV/T;

"Photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar collectors, sometimes known as hybrid PV/T systems or PVT, are systems that convert solar radiation into thermal and electrical energy. These systems combine a photovoltaic cell, which converts electromagnetic radiation (photons) into electricity, with a solar thermal collector, which captures the remaining energy and removes waste heat from the PV module. Photovoltaic (PV) cells suffer from a drop in efficiency with the rise in temperature due to increased resistance. Such systems can be engineered to carry heat away from the PV cells thereby cooling the cells and thus improving their efficiency by lowering resistance."


Thanks for the links ai_... I am a bit confused about the Cogenra products. They are putting what looks like a solar thermal system (reflectors heating fluid) on the 10k sqft Facebook roof. Nothing new here from the look.

OTOH PVT now EchoFirst claim a PV panel with thermal recovery (no T efficiency spec?) producing TWICE the energy of standard PV - so, around 26% efficient - which sounds good.

Any cogen system for homes and business is certainly welcome. Of course ancillary issues for solar remain: weather, angle of incidence, daytime only, energy storage and efficiency numbers unable to challenge Lattice Assisted Nuke.

But solar is another way to go in remote areas where Lattice may be unserviceable - or by consumer choice. I think all renewables should cooperate in making this transition from combustion and fossils. A Coalition of Renewable Energy Manufacturers would better counter the opposition sure to come from oil, banks and utilities...

Unless they see the light.


What is more interesting and a huge opportunity is for thermal conversion to electric. So far, low cost heat still needs to boil water or expand gas (Stirling) to create mechanical motion to turn a generator.

How to get away from mechanics? Methinks there're clues in the Sun. Heat from solar surface play some part in solar-magnetic phenomena. Somewhere in that magnetic flow should be an opportunity to convert energy to electrical energy. Maybe Svensmark or other solar scientists have suggestions.


This is purely for appearances, PR, but i don't mind. Seeing it in Warren, Michigan (the center of ICE mentality) is amazing. If it can happen there it can happen anywhere.


Actually the Cogenra system is also a PV with T system;

It's a concentrated photovoltaic set-up that's cooled by liquid backing.



Thanks ai_ - couldn't see the PV cells in the other illustrations. Interesting idea. How do you take a hot shower at 5AM before water is heated? Wouldn't there have to be energy used at night to maintain water temp?

The CPV is also interesting. Progress has indeed been made in this sector. It's worrisome that: According to SolFocus, one megawatt of panels requires 6 to 8 acres of land. CPV panels are mounted on tracking systems, allowing for the land underneath to be utilized as well.

A difficult sell (except to farms) competing against a fixed Prius-sized SOFC or Lattice genset.


How do you take a hot shower at 5AM before water is heated?

Simple, insulated storage tanks. Use water heated the previous day, or even the previous summer. Do some research on "seasonal thermal store."

This is being done on the community level;
or a building level.


Again, an interesting idea provided someone finances the borehole unit. Clearly impractical for all but planned communities with good sun exposure (ie not Northwest)

However, after a few years of operation, the core temperature of the BTES field will approach 80°C by the end of summer, with sufficient heat for almost an entire heating season. Almost??


I said "do some research." That was only one early example. Thermal storage is a wide ranging idea with lot's of variance in capability. My grandmother used one of these; in her house 50 years ago.


OTOH 80% isn't good enough for you?
Remember: Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.




It is impressive that this was viable 50 years ago. We are however at a critical juncture where energy demand due to emerging nations will soar. Our public solutions are either burn massive amounts of coal (China, India), NG (Europe) or build new nukes. None of these are without major negative impact threatening environment and quality of life.

What we need is a truly clean, low, low cost source of energy - heat or electrical. Solar, wind, are helping greatly. But the support systems (like thermal storage units) are expensive and out of reach of vast majority of people.

"The units start at around $2,500 installed for the small room units and add $1000-$1500 for larger ones. This makes installing an ETS unit in all rooms a huge investment."

Which is why we are supporting development of new alternatives that deliver vast amounts of energy at little input cost.


All well and good but, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

The systems I talk of are here, now, and have been for decades. Your new alternatives are, as you point out, still in development. Let's use what we have now in the buildings we are building now and if the new alternatives do pan out as we hope they do we can put them in the next generation of buildings.


So this increases the output by 25% (claimed).

I will ask my solar PV distributor/installer if a monster alt-azimuth tracking gimbal system might add less than 25%, and if not, does he think volume production will reduce it.

Ever the straight man, I will also ask him if there really IS a Santa Clause.



Yeah, it is hard to tell what this means without a baseline to compare it with. On first read I asked myself 'are they getting the extra 25% because it's a tracking design, a multi-axis tracking design, or a hybrid multi-axis tracking design?' However when I went to their site I found the tilt is limited to just 15 degrees. A greater tilt would allow a greater increase in renewable energy production but this low tilt actually makes sense for its current application: It does double duty as a shadetree in car lots and you don't want more tilt from an array that has cars parked under it.


I give the old school a thumb up for good effort.

Lyla Burns

Thank you for this information. Once our painting contractors get done, we are planning to install some solar panels in our office building. They have some great benefits. Thanks again!

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