Global Observer

'Solar trees' shine on Mexico City

'Solar trees' shine on Mexico City

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MEXICO CITY -- "Solar trees" have sprouted in Mexico City's historic district.

MEXICO CITY -- "Solar trees" have sprouted in Mexico City's historic district.

Three solar-powered lampposts shaped like towering palms are illuminating a pedestrian street downtown, thanks to the technology of a company called Energetika and a city pilot program experimenting with renewable energy sources.

Solar panel discs bloom at the end of 16-foot fronds. When charged with six hours of sunlight, they can shine for nearly 10 hours straight.

Along Alhóndiga street, the "solar trees" appear like an outdoor sculpture during the day. In the evening, they illuminate a tree-lined corridor packed with vendors of low-priced clothes and goods and buyers looking for a good deal.

The trees echo the design of Ross Lovegrove, the U.K. designer who first put solar trees on the scene in Vienna with an exhibit outside that city's MAK Museum in 2007.

The Mexican version, called Na2Light, draws its power from 11 solar cells of 15 watts apiece for a total of 165 watt-hours of energy. The solar power illuminates LEDs. The "solar trees" are built to last 10 years.

Creators Roberto Calderón and Alejandro Chico told Mexico City’s Reforma newspaper their innovation is not just about aesthetics but responds to the needs of a major urban area.

The city is in talks with Energetika to continue the program, which in this initial stage cost the city nothing. The "solar trees" were manufactured by prisoners in a city jail.

Photo: Lauren Villagran

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Lauren Villagran

Correspondent (Mexico City)

Lauren Villagran has written for the Associated Press, Dallas Morning News and Christian Science Monitor. She holds a degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure