New Shapes of Solar

By Peggy Hammond    July 27, 2018

As developers of utility-scale solar farms, we at ISS always find beauty in a farm’s layout; nevertheless, we are fascinated by those who share their inventive visions of solar.  We can appreciate the not-so-traditional shapes some create for their delivery systems.

There are new approaches of supplying solar power, and the Detroit Zoo is proof of this.  In order to further their sustainability through innovative technology, the Detroit Zoological Society in April 2018 installed a ground-mounted solar “sunflower.”  The solar sunflower was developed in Austria, and the concept is based on mimicking what a real sunflower would do as it follows the sun.  When the sun comes up, the solar panel “petals” unfold and begin to turn, eventually setting themselves to 90 degrees to begin producing energy.  In the evening, the petals close.  The technology allows for the sunflower to clean itself two times per day, decreasing the chance of hampered efficiency.  The zoo expects to power the carousel and other areas of the property from its new technological “flower.”

Germany has been working on a pilot program that allows a field to be used simultaneously for both a solar farm and an agricultural farm.  The ability to use a parcel of land for two purposes is extremely attractive as it eliminates the conflict between the need to grow crops and to produce energy from the sun.  2017 was the first year in the Lake Constance, Germany, agrophotovoltaic pilot project, “Agrophotovoltaic – Resource Efficient Land Use,” which used 720 bifacial modules, meaning they are able to produce power from both front and back sides.  The back side uses solar radiation that is reflected off the surroundings.  The panels are on a structure that is slightly over 16 feet (5 meters) off the ground, allowing room not only for crop growth to take place but also for harvesting equipment to operate underneath the array.  More testing is needed before this kind of system would be ready for the market, but initial results were promising.  The pilot program used potatoes, winter wheat, celeriac and clover grass as the crop plants, and the farm was able to use approximately 40% of the produced energy to recharge electric vehicles as well as process the harvested crops.  The consensus seems to be that in summer, the solar energy produced from the bifacial panels would very nearly support the farm’s power needs.

ISS knows, regardless of a facility’s shape, solar energy plays a tremendously important role in our country’s future.  ISS develops utility-scale solar farms and is proud to be part of the solution to cleaner air and sustainable energy.  To learn more about working with ISS, please see our website at or call 828-424-7884.