Solar ‘tree’ project takes root at AMRC

12 December 2022

The first commercial prototype of an innovative solar ‘tree’ capable of powering homes and charging electric vehicles  is being developed by experts at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

SolarBotanic Trees Ltd, a London-based renewable energy startup, is working with the AMRC to develop a field prototype for the integrated, scalable and sustainable power generation system. The project aims to build an integrated battery power storage system using the solar trees in locations where a renewable but ‘aesthetically attractive’ solution is required, such as for urban residential and commercial settings

The ‘tree’, which has a dome made up of nano photovoltaic (PV) ‘leaves’, can harness enough solar energy to power individual homes, and charge electric vehicles; while its sleek aesthetic means it is not only easy on the eye but on the environment too - providing a clean and green energy solution to  accelerate the UK’s Net Zero journey. 

The AMRC, part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult network of research centres, is providing the  product development and design support to help build a functional prototype for testing. 

John Spencer, senior project manager at the AMRC said: “We are delighted to be working with the fantastic team at SolarBotanic Trees on the development of its energy-generating solar tree. The business has a great product which will play an important role in developing the infrastructure necessary to support the shift to zero-emission electric vehicles (EVs), a core part of the UK government’s net zero strategy.

“The AMRC will provide design and prototyping support to advance the product through a rapid development cycle, enabling the company to launch the first solar tree, fulfil its pre-orders, and gain traction in the EV charging market. SolarBotanic Trees’ vision to create carbon-reducing technologies aligns with the AMRC’s drive to support the high-value manufacturing sector on the journey to net zero.''

Chris Shelley, CEO of SolarBotanic Trees said: “With the AMRC bringing its design and prototyping expertise to the table it will help us accelerate commercialisation. The team at the AMRC is a great partner for SolarBotanic Trees to deliver the prototype at speed using its world-class facilities and talent which will enable us to rapidly move to commercial production in the near future, starting with our launch order for 200 trees for RAW Charging Group, a high growth UK and EU focussed EV charging service provider.”

Other project partners include the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry (MTC) and the Advanced Forming Research Centre in Scotland, both part of the HVM Catapult, along with Brunel University in London and Unipart Technologies Group (UTG) part of Unipart Group.

The latest project is rooted in a five-day design assist previously undertaken for SolarBotanic Trees, which saw the AMRC  deliver a range of design concepts for the trunk, branch and petal structure of the solar tree, as well as investigating a range of monitoring and sensing methods to test, assess and select various PV cell options.

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