13-Year-Old Contributes to a Brighter Solar Future

solar tree
Aidan’s solar experiment

13 year old Aidan Dwyer was hiking in the woods and noticed that the leaves formed a spiral pattern on some trees. After some investigation he learned that they followed the Fibonacci mathematical sequence.

I’m already impressed, but Aidan took his investigation even further. He wondered why the trees used this pattern which shows up repeatedly in nature. This led him to believe that it increases the leave’s exposure to sunlight. To test this theory, he build an experiment in his back yard.

He took solar panels and arranged them on a PVC "tree" in the sequence of the leaves on trees. For comparison, he arranged a group of the same quantity of the same solar panels in a traditional 45 degree angle toward the sun. He then measured the output from both arrays over time and downloaded the data into his computer.

Here’s what Aidan found:

"The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model. The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day. But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky. The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer!"

"The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.

But the best part of what I learned was that even in the darkest days of winter, nature is still trying to tell us its secrets!"

For his efforts, Aidan has won the American Museum of Natural History Young Naturalist Award. You can read Aidan’s complete well-written essay of his investigation on their website.

Aidan is not only an impressive young man, but inspirational as well. I’m thinking this design would work extremely well on cell towers, communications towers, or winding around windmills. It would certainly have less impact on the environment, which is causing trouble for some solar farms.

Congratulations to Aidan and we look forward to seeing his achievements in the future.

Via Gizmodo



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