Solar-powered umbrella canopies are inspired by acacia trees

As we continue to find ways to harness natural energy and power, we’re seeing a lot of concepts for products that can use solar energy for general use. Solar panels are slowly becoming a must-have for those trying to live more sustainably, but it still has a long way to go. We’re seeing several products that use solar energy in public settings too, although a lot of them are still in the conceptual stage or at least prototypes stage and may not yet be ready for general consumers. But at least, it’s a good start.

Designer: Samuel Wilkinson

Ecacia is a tree-like structure that’s based on one species of the acacia tree that grows in eastern and southern Africa. It is basically a huge solar-powered umbrella canopy that not only provides shade for people in public places but can also power nearby public amenities or even charge electric vehicles. There are 708 monocrystalline solar panels embedded in the roof of the umbrella to capture solar power. It can also be plugged into a grid.

In keeping with the tree concept, each umbrella is seven meters wide and the roof is timber-lined with a faceted nonagonal shape. The trunk is made from steel with aluminum cladding and comes in two sizes: 6.7 meters or 5.2 meters tall. There are also four programmable LED lamps that gives off some light to the surrounding areas at night. Eventually, future prototypes will also have a cooling mist function so that public areas that are experiencing hot weather can have a temporary respite when passing through the umbrella canopies.

The Ecacia can work as a stand-alone structure or as part of a cluster in parks and other public areas. It is designed to be both a structure for solar capture as well as a source of relief for public urban areas. The prototype was built together with start-up Solar Forma and is also designed to be easy to install. It can also withstand winds up to 160 kilometers per hour for those areas that may also experience extreme weather at times.