UK-Based Architecture Firm Makes Solar Energy More Accessible

How cool would it be to have a nature-inspired design that uses waterways to generate renewable energy? This is exactly what ZM Architecture, a Green Dot Award winner from the UK is doing.

This Glasgow-based firm’s design is based on the structure of  lily pads. The multi-layered structure allows the modules to capture much more solar energy than a flat array could catch.

They hope that their design can be used in unused canals, river ways and tributaries. This in turn will help in neighborhood revitalization, more trading and access to clean energy for people who want to live or work in these areas.

The 100-foot diameter ‘lily pads’ would be anchored to the riverbed and turned via integrated motors that act as solar tracking devices. This turning of the panels on the pad optimizes the solar collection during the day. These pads can be connected to the main city grid to distribute energy. The lilies can also be disconnected, dismantled and moved if needed. This design has not only interested the Glasgow City Council but has also drawn attention from organizations and municipal agencies in Asia, Brazil, Europe, and Korea.

According to PV Magazine, there are several benefits of putting solar panels on the water:

Among the benefits of using floating PV systems is the water-cooling effect on silicon solar cells, the natural reflectivity of the water surface, the potential reduction in algae growth due to reduced sunlight penetration, and a lower water temperature in the areas below the arrays.

The lily pads were tested in one small output canal on the River Clyde, Scotland, and the Glasgow City Council has intimated it would like to test the solar lilies, again on the river, with the cooperation of the Glasgow Science Museum. The unique tracking mechanism of the panels means that they are able to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight and this is important in areas with low sunlight, like Scotland.

Scotland as a country has been working hard to put itself on the map for renewable energy production, with the city of Glasgow leading the way. Although, the focus so far has been on wind energy, the largely untapped sector of solar energy is not being utilized through innovative technology like this.

Image Credit: Lily Pad concept on the River Clyde. ZM Architecture ©

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also

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