Ten innovative uses for solar panels around the world

Ten innovative uses for solar panels around the world

To coincide with the 20th edition WETEX at Dubai World Trade Centre, we celebrate some of the most unique and innovative applications of solar panels in art and architecture from around the world.


  • Solar
  • Architecture
  • Sustainability
  • Renewable Energy

 ​1. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

These larger-than-life, solar-powered supertrees are located at the iconic Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. The garden is home to 18 multi-purpose supertrees that function as vertical gardens, generate solar power, act as air venting ducts and collect rainwater. 11 of the supertrees are fitted with solar photovoltaic systems, creating the electricity that provides light within the conservatories.

2. The Sustainability Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai

The Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will explore the potential for buildings to be self-sustaining. Developed using a passive design approach and the latest green building technologies, the pavilion trail blazes in forecasted energy and water efficiency. Solar panels are designed to produce 4 GWh/year of electricity, while a greywater recycling system will ensure no drop of reusable water is wasted. A ‘Water Tree’ will trial extraction of atmospheric humidity, which could produce up to 22,000 litres of water a day. The Pavilion aims to influence thousands of visitors during Expo 2020 by empowering them to understand the environmental impact of the daily choices they make.

3. Saudao ao Sol, Croatia

Located in the coastal town of Zadar, Croatia, Saudao ao Sol (Greeting to the Sun), is a striking installation that harnesess the power of the sun rays. Croatian architect, Nikola Baic, designed the LED-light work of art with 300 multilayered glass plates encasing solar cells that absorb sunlight during the day and come alive at night, putting on a memorable light show.  

4. Field of Light Uluru, Australia

Featuring more than 50,000 solar-powered light bulbs, Field of Light Uluru is a one-of-a-kind installation designed and produced by artist Bruce Munro. Covering an area equivalent to four football fields, the work of art brings Australia’s Red Centre desert near Ayers Rock to life in a remarkable display of iridescent light.  Picture credit: Photography Mark Pickthall, copyright brucemunro.co.uk 

5. Science of Light, USA

Canadian stained glass artist Sarah Hall fuses colour, light and photovoltaic technology for architectural glass. The ‘Science of Light’ installation, featured here in the stairwell of Grass Valley Elementary School in Washington State, USA, combines the art of stained glass with cutting edge technology to produce this striking effect. Energy gathered from the sun during the day is released as light, illuminating a glass spiral located in the stairwell. Picture credit: Sarah Hall www.sarahhallstudio.com

6. The National Stadium, Taiwan

The National Stadium in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, is a solar-powered multi-purpose venue designed by renowned architect Toyo Ito. The 50,000-seat arena, uniquely shaped like a dragon, is clad in 8,844 solar panels that generate 100% of the stadium’s electricity using photovoltaic technology. That’s enough to light both track and field.

7. Smartflower

The ‘plug-&-play’ Smartflower is a photovoltaic system with solar ‘petals’ that automatically unfurl with the sun. The device directs its 18 M2 solar modular fan sun-ward and produces electricity to power household appliances. With accurate, dual-axle sun tracking, the flower produces 40 times more energy than a static solar device. Picture credit: SmartFlower Solar

8. Solar Sun Tree by XINDAO

Blending form and function, the branches of the Solar Suntree double up as charging outlets. Made out of eco-friendly bamboo, the tree features nine solar leaves that can charge a 1,350 mAh lithium battery, generating enough power for your mobile phone or MP3 player.

Picture credit: xindao.com

9. The ENDESA Pavilion, Spain

The ENDESA Pavilion at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia is a stunning example of a self-sufficient, solar-powered building. While originally built as a protoype, it has been used as a control room for testing and evaluating many other projects relating to the intelligent management of power. Integrating smart, parametric design, the Institute ensured the angular facade is able to maximize the solar panels’ performance. Picture credit: IAAC - Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

10. Giant origami-inspired crane, USA

Inspired by the Japanese art of origami, this striking bird-shaped sculpture, called Ascension, was built by LA-based Crimson Collective for the Coachella music and arts festival in 2010. Rising to 45 feet, it is made of modular aluminum tubes and covered with white mesh fabric. At night, it lights up with LEDs, powered by two photovoltaic systems that sit nearby and double as a canopy and benches.

Photo credit: Courtesy Crimson Collective/ Michelle Cassel