A Brooklyn-based firm, SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology), has created a product called Solar Ivy. Mimicking the look and function of ivy, this mimic has wind and solar power generating photovoltaic leaves that can be attached to building facades.
The Solar Ivy system has a modular design allowing for many types of customization, including leaf color, spacing, orientation, and photovoltaic type. Solar Ivy is also adaptable to different building types and climates. An energy monitoring system is incorporated into the product, allowing fine-tuning and control of the technology by users. SMIT aims to use recycled materials when possible, and to create products whose component parts can be re-purposed or recycled in the future. Each 4 foot by 7 foot strip of the GROW system generates 85 Watts of solar power, producing renewable energy while also helping provide shade for buildings that can potentially reduce HVAC costs for the consumer.
As many ground plants vie for coveted food sources, ivy has found a niche that allows it to get enough sunlight and nutrients without having to compete with its fellow ground plants. By growing vertically using another structure for support, ivy receives direct sunlight without having to compete with other plants. SMIT is working to take advantage of this very unique niche as well with the Solar Ivy system. Perhaps of more interest from a biomimetic standpoint is the story of how SMIT is following many of Life's Principles in how it makes, uses, and deals with end-of-life issues of their product. The entire life cycle of the design is based on principles in nature, and through the creative use of existing alternative energy technologies and the intentional incorporation of sustainable design ethic, Solar Ivy has the potential to be one of the most sustainable solar and wind energy technologies on the market.
Solar panels take up a lot of space. Solar Ivy is designed to be placed on building facades, taking advantage of vertical spaces.