James Cameron Designed a Smart Solar Array That Looks Like a Sunflower

Everything James Cameron does is big. Eighty-five years after the world’s largest ship sank, the famed Hollywood director turned the RMS Titanic’s fatal voyage into a movie that set records for longevity at the box office.

Years after switching to solar to power the sets of his movies, James Cameron has taken the next step and re-designed the solar panel. His version looks like a giant photovoltaic sunflower, and the first units were installed on the Malibu campus of the MUSE school (started by Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis Cameron) last month.

“Avatar,” meanwhile, needs its own Wikipedia page to list all the records it has set.

Now Cameron is bringing his love of magnitude to solar energy with the Sun Flower, a large solar structure that’s actually pleasant to look at.

Cameron and his incredible team have just unveiled his new project which (in combination with the powerwall) may very well have a tremendous impact on energy technology around the planet.

Cameron hopes that people usually repelled by the ugliness of photovoltaic cells might give his new Sun Flowers a try. And the director/explorer plans to make the design open-source. As soon as he secures the patent, the design should be available for all those who have enough money to build a little piece of the future in their backyard.

sunflower.pngEach of Cameron’s Sun Flowers is 28.5 feet wide and has 14 petals. Sonnen Systems provided tracking technology so that each panel would move throughout the day to follow the course of the sun, eliminating one of the problems with traditional, stationary panels.

At MUSE, the current setup generates about 260 kWh per day, meeting 75 to 90 percent of the school’s energy needs. Composed of one central panel surrounded by 14 smaller “petals,” each Sun Flower is designed to provide an alternative to traditional solar panels that, while functional, strike many people as eyesores.

“The idea was to unify form and function with this life-affirming image that anyone looking at it would instantly get,” explained Cameron, who first launched the Sun Flower grid near Malibu’s MUSE School, to Gizmodo’s Alissa Walker.

At MUSE, every child is truly known. We understand and honor students as individuals – dreamers, observers, envelope pushers, and everything in between. We give each a voice in choosing curriculum based on what they like, how they learn, where they find fun, and what they need.

We honor and celebrate creativity. We encourage exploration and imagination. We foster compassion and optimism. We focus on preserving the environment and building community. We believe absolutely that the freedom to follow one’s own path every day is essential in nurturing fully invested, absorbed, and passionate learners.

 Sun Flowers, like their yellow-petaled counterparts, track the sun over the course of the day to catch the maximum amount of rays.


This is both an artistic choice and a functional one.

Traditional solar panels sit idly on a hillside, roof, or angled platform. This causes them to miss out on valuable hours of solar energy as the sun moves across the sky, reducing their efficiency.

Total Sun Flower output can reach 260 kilowatt hours per day, or enough to satisfy 75 to 90% of the school’s total energy needs, Gizmodo reports.

Cameron says the project will be patented, but released on an open-source platform.

sun flower 3

The designs follow Cameron’s earlier work developing a set of retractable solar panels with FEMA. The panels are designed for emergency situations when the power goes out.

His other environmentally-conscious missions have included making the “Avatar” series the first film production entirely powered by the sun, and eliminating the need for helicopters in aerial shots, since drones can accomplish many of the same tasks without the heavy footprint.

Cameron has even launched a contest in New Zealand to find the optimal drone-based camera rigging.

Sources: [1] [2] [3]



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