A SmartFlower can produce up to 40% more energy than a conventional solar panel
Come straight from Austria, SmartFlower is a revolutionary photovoltaic solar installation that can improve electricity production by 40% compared to conventional solar roof installations. Thanks to its unique and ingenious flower-shaped design, the SmartFlower’s solar panels rotate in order to follow the sun throughout the day. All the details about this product can be found below.
Discovering the SmartFlower
When the SmartFlower appeared on the French market in 2014, it was distributed by EDF’s subsidiary dedicated to photovoltaic electricity and renewable energies called EDF ENR. It came as a true revolution in the world of solar panels because of its unique and imposing flower-shaped solar panels. But what exactly makes this product so special?
What is SmartFlower?
The SmartFlower ©EDF ENR
SmartFlower is a smart and autonomous system designed to produce photovoltaic solar energy. Standing at a height of 5 meters (16.4ft), this “solar flower” takes its inspiration from mother nature, as it rotates throughout the day in the same way as sunflower petals do. Thanks to this, the SmartFlower can produce 40% more electricity than what could conventional solar panels.
SmartFlower Energy Technology, the Austrian company which designed this smart product, did so in an effort to face the issues encountered by solar panels. Indeed, these always require to be oriented fully South, their levels of production vary dramatically depending on the time of day, and often face losses in efficiency due to the fouling of photovoltaic surfaces. The SmartFlower had the ambition to tackle all these problems, which often cause solar panels to be criticised.
Two versions of the product were designed : the Classic SmartFlower and the SmartFlower +Plus. This second version contains batteries that can store the produced electricity directly in the SmartFlower’s base, for later use.
The SmartFlower’s main characteristics are the following:
- It follows the sun’s trajectory: just like a sunflower, the SmartFlower rotates automatically throughout the day, which means it enjoys maximal sun exposure from dusk till dawn. This is done thanks to “smart tracking” (solar trackers and a double horizontal and vertical rotating axis).
- Its panels clean themselves automatically thanks to a “smart cleaning” system, which makes the photovoltaic panels more efficient and also means the product requires only minimal maintenance.
- Its photovoltaic panels cool down automatically: heat reduces the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells by 5% every 10 degrees, but thanks to a “smart cooling” ventilation system, a SmartFlower's panels are not affected by this, which allows for an extra 5 to 10% in production.
- Its panels remain protected in case of strong wind: thanks to the SmartFlower’s “smart safety” system, if the wind ever reaches 47 km/h, its petals will fold back into horizontal position, and fold up completely past 63 km/h. No need to worry about the panels getting damaged during violent gusts of wind.
- Its electricity production and consumption can be supervised thanks to the dedicated SmartFlower mobile App.
- It comes with a unique “Plug & Play” technology: once installed, the SmartFlower will be operational within an hour, and can be set up on any type of surface thanks to its four screws planted into the ground. It can be dismantled, contrary to roof systems, and can be taken along in case of a house move. All this makes it flexible, quick and easy to use.
The SmartFlower in movement
The SmartFlower has 12 photovoltaic petals, each one a combination of 40 monocristallin photovoltaic cells. At its peak power of 2,50 kWc, it will be able to produce between 3,800 kWh and 6,200 kWh per year (depending on the region and sun exposure).
Additionally, the SmartFlower can work in virtually any climate, as it can work at any between -20°C and 50°C. It will this be usable anywhere in France, at anytime of year.
Getting to know the different SmartFlower models
SmartFlower (former SmartFlower POP)
The SmartFlower range
The first model introduced was the SmartFlower POP. With its power of 2.31 kWc for 700 kg and a diameter of 4.8 meters, the SmartFlower POP promised to increase energy production by 40%, which is equivalent to between 3,400 kWh and 6,200 kWh yearly, depending on location. It came in 8 colours: cream, fuchsia, emerald, turquoise, ocean, lavender, aluminium and safran.
Since the Austrian company SmartFlower Energy went bankrupt, it is no longer purchasable in Europe. This said, an equivalent model simply named “SmartFlower” is still commercialised in the US. This model is very similar to the POP version, aside it being slightly more powerful (205 kWc) and available in fewer colours (white, grey, green and blue).
SmartFlower +Plus (formerly SmartFlower POP+)
The SmartFlower POP+ had the specificity of integrating a domestic storage battery in its base. This allowed any extra produced solar electricity to be stored during the day for later use.
The model came with two battery capacity variations: the SmartFlower POP+ On-Grid, with a 2.3 kWh battery (2 storage cells), and the SmartFlower POP+ Off-Grid with a storage capacity of 4.6 kWh (4 cells). The batteries could last up to 5,000 charging cycles.
The SmartFlower POP+ presented very similar technical characteristics as the SmartFlower POP, and an equivalent power (2.31 kWc) for the same annual production. Unfortunately, just like the standard SmartFlower, these models are also currently unavailable across Europe.
Using a SmartFlower to charge an electric car
The SmartFlower POP-e
That’s right! This was made possible thanks to the SmartFlower POP-e, a model which came with a power station for electric cars integrated in its base.
With a production capacity equivalent to that of the SmartFlower POP and POP+, this model had an 22 kWv AC load output, allowing it to function as a charger for electric cars. The SmartFlower POP-e was targeted at private individuals but also shopping centre car parks, companies, local authorities…
Currently this model is also unavailable across Europe and the US.
Technical specificities of the SmartFlower and SmartFlower +Plus
Both the SmartFlower and SmartFlower +Plus remain available on the US market, in four different colours : white, grey, green and blue.
|SmartFlower and SmartFlower +Plus|
|Nominal power||2,50 kWc|
|Annual production||3,800 - 6,200 kWh / year|
|Flower diameter||4,80 m|
|Photovoltaic surface||18 m²|
|Temperature limits||between -20º and +50º|
|Wind resistance||>47 km/h : horizontal position
>63 km/h : total recline
How much energy can a SmartFlower produce?
Depending on location, a SmartFlower can produce 3,800 to 6,200 kWh of solar electricity per year - which is around 40% more than compared to what conventional solar panels produce.
|Conventional solar panels||SmartFlower solar panels|
|Power||2,5 kWc||2,5 kWc|
|Production capacity||800 kWh / kWc||1500 kWh / kWc||+40%||+40%|
|Annual production||2 000 kWh||3 750 kWh||2 800 kWh||5 250 kWh|
A SmartFlower can provide between 9 and 18 kWh of electricity per day at its peak - enough to charge a smartphone 2,424 times, drive 100 km in an electric car or even watch 360 hours of TV.
A household’s consumption of electricity depends on which heating method and installations it uses : electrical appliances, swimming pool, electric car... You can get an estimate of your annual consumption by looking at the average energy consumption in France, depending on your consumption profile.
A SmartFlower can deliver enough energy to ensure electric self-consumption of a family of 4, excluding heating and and hot water. Such a household living in a 100m2 house should easily fulfill its electricity needs (around 2,500 kWh/year) if it uses natural gas for heating and cooking, and owns a SmartFlower +Plus.
However, a SmartFlower’s production would not meet this same family’s needs (over 17,000 kWh per year) if the family relies of an all-electric installation. It is thus important to make a careful estimate of your annual electricity consumption before purchasing a SmartFlower.
Reselling SmartFlower photovoltaic electricity
Similarly to a conventional solar panel, a SmartFlower will likely produce more than enough solar energy for a private individual. If so, the consumer can sell this energy surplus, either to EDF or to a supplier offering the repurchase of solar energy, like Ilek. SmartFlower owners have a choice: either selling the entire solar production, or only the surplus. The repurchase price will vary depending on which of these two options is chosen.
|Resale of total||Resale of surplus|
|Installation type||Power category (kWc)||Repurchase price||Repurchase price||Installation bonus|
|SmartFlower||≤ 3 kWc||12,1 c€ / kWh||10 c€ / kWh||390€ / kWc|
If all electricity production is sold, and depending on annual production, a SmartFlower could theoretically earn its owner between 460€ (for 3,800 kWh) and 750€ (for 6,200 kWh) per year.
If only the energy surplus is put on sale, and assuming a 60% rate of self-consumption, a SmartFlower could earn its owner between 150€ (for 3,800 kWh) and over 250€ (for 6,200 kWh) per year, in addition to an installation bonus of 975€ (390€ x 2,5 kWc), and savings on electricity bills all year round thanks to self-consumption.
To whom can I sell my SmartFlower solar energy? Since the SmartFlower is no longer marketed by EDF ENR in France, all electricity produced by the product can be resold to other energy suppliers, such as Ilek.
How much does a SmartFlower cost?
During the COP23 Conference, a SmartFlower was installed in Paris right outside the City Hall.(c) EDF ENR
We now to come the SmartFlower’s real issue : its cost. Indeed, a SmartFlower comes at a whopping cost of between 15,000 and 23,000€, before tax is even added. Additionally, even if reselling part or all of the produced solar electricity to EDF or another supplier, savings will be very slow to appear. Self-consumption implies a very long return on investment, often over several decades.
As a result, the SmartFlower is not affordable to all households, even though these can get financial aid from the State to fund their solar installation. The product still managed to seduce over 300 businesses, local authorities and private individuals by the end of 2017.
- What guarantees come with a SmartFlower?
- Modules are guaranteed 10 years.
- The inverter is guaranteed 5 years.
- The system is guaranteed 5 years.
- Module performance is guaranteed 25 years (at 80% of the initial performance).
The future of SmartFlower in France
In November 2017, the Austrian company SmartFlower Energy Technology GmbH was declared bankrupt, having accumulated over 5.2 million euros of debt. The firm owed 20 creditors, and had not been able to become profitable through its sales in Europe, which led the SmartFlower to be discontinued across the continent.
But thankfully, SmartFlower Solar LLC have acquired most of the assets of Smartflower Energy Technology GmbH from its insolvency administrator, and because of this Smartflower is now actively available in Europe. The production of units has resumed in its original facility in Austria and what's more active European employees and dealers are continuing to expand SmartFlower’s presence across the continent.
As for the company’s US division, SmartFlower Solar, is also getting on quite well (CEO of the division Jim Gordon owns all the SmartFlower intellectual property rights for the American continent, which makes SmartFlower Solar completely independent of its European counterpart).