For Americans concerned with the Trump administration’s move to undo climate regulations and its retrograde embrace of the coal industry, it might be heartening to remember this is not happening everywhere. As the U.S. moves further from the ambitious benchmarks laid out by President Obama, other nations are moving toward a more energy-responsible future.
Austria, for example, will begin building out a nationwide network of charging stations in an effort to boost electric vehicle use and to reduce its carbon emissions. Along with the European Union, it has also created a business environment that supports sustainability-minded entrepreneurship. One such outcome of that context is Smartflower, a photovoltaic array that mimics the sun-seeking inclinations of a flower. The company claims that this design results in 40-50 percent more efficiency than a traditional photovoltaic array.
Unlike solar panels, which are normally fixed into place on rooftops, Smartflower is kinetic, allowing it to position itself to maximize sun exposure. In the morning, when the sun rises, its panels fan out, creating a flower-like arrangement, which then rotates throughout the day in response to sunlight. In its dormant, night-time position, it undergoes a cleaning process, minimizing the sunlight interference that dust build-up can present. Meant to be consumer-friendly, the system can be installed in any open space then easily plugged in. Already it has picked up the endorsement of Austria’s own Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said: “I mean, what a brilliant idea—you put this in front of your house, then you plug it in—not installation, nothing—just plug and play.”