What Is This Project?
The project will be a collaboration that will provide a functioning energy system to the Edible Futures nursery, a community food project in Bristol . We propose to make a solar tree to power a rain fed irrigation system at the nursery.
This is an educational project where the local community will come together (during our workshops) to build the solar PV panels that will form the leaves of the tree. In doing so we aim to further our communities understanding of energy and energy systems as well as irrigation systems and growing our own food. It is only through an understanding of energy and food systems that our communities can become resilient and self sufficient, which is imperative given growing food and energy costs.
Why This Project?
1) Climate Change: We need to reduce our consumption of embodied CO2 in the food we eat and the the energy we use. We can see from the below graph that if China and India (Non-Annex 1 countries) peak in CO2 emissions in 2025 then Europe and America and the big polluters will need to have a near infinite reduction in CO2 emissions starting 2014... this is impossible due to the constraints of engineering! The Message - if we want to prevent climate change we need huge changes now, not a just few solar panels but huge reductions in our consumption of energy and new respect for food.
2) Education : The Rebound Effect shows us that households don't replace one incandescent light bulb for one energy saving light bulb. They say to themselves "I have saved some money so I will increase the amount of lighting" and buy an extra energy saving light bulb. What this shows us is that we as a society need to increase our understanding of energy to reduce this Rebound Effect. The same can be said of food - why would I choose not to by a mango flown half way round the would if I have no connection with growing food? Actively participating in our workshops will increase the education of both food and energy systems in Bristol.
3) Social Equality : Its great to go about trying to solve climate change. But what if that increases social inequality? The graph below shows (slightly out of date) distribution of solar PV installations in the UK and the income deciles the household belongs to. This graph shows that its the more affluent buying panels, but the way the Feed-In-Tariff works its that every households energy bill rises in order to pay those who own the panels. The result: a regressive mechanism transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. The solar panels we make cost a fraction of commercial panels and thus make them affordable to low income households.
The solar tree idea comes from recent research at MIT in America and a 13 year old in America. Adrian explored the relationship between the the fibonacci sequence which dictates the angles at which tree branches grow and therefore the efficient energy capture of the tree, and the collection of energy by solar PV. By mimicking the way in which trees grow it is possible to increase the energy captured per surface area over the course of the year.
The MIT research shows using 3D solar in high latitudes and within urban environments gives the greatest advantages over the same surface area of flat panels at the correct inclination. Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Career Development Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT and leader of the research team, reports in a paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science that the greatest improvements came in “locations far from the equator, in winter months and on cloudier days.”
To be fair there is a difference between the MIT research on 3D shapes optimised using computer algorithms and the 13 year old's tree design. This project will look to explore this further by monitoring the solar tree output. The most important element being the human effect of inspiration which cannot ever be captured by a computational optimisation algorithm, but can lead to changes in attitude and behaviour towards both energy and food.
Demand Energy Equality has been in existence for 1 year and has run many workshops teaching people to build their own solar photovoltaic panels. The solar tree would be built under the same workshop model where the local community would come together to help construct the tree- the leaves of the tree being panels built during the workshop. This will enable workshop participants to see their solar panels powering a great community project.
Why Do We Need You To Pledge Money?
We don’t want finances to be a barrier to a household attending a workshop, or a workshop leader being able to attend our training workshops. In order for us to provide free and extremely cheap workshops to low income households we need a revenue stream. By pledging money to this project low income households and workshop leaders will be able to attend the entire project for free.