A Burlingame entrepreneur who thought rooftop solar panels were unsightly has come up with a green idea that he hopes takes root: a palm tree that absorbs solar energy.
Greg Strang, a real estate agent, said he was traveling home from New York City four years ago when the topic of solar energy came up with another passenger.
The growing popularity of solar panels — which capture renewable energy generated from the sun — should lead to new forms of solar panels that are more attractive than the common gray, flat panels seen on top of buildings, Strang said.
His resulting invention, the Electrisitree, is the answer to that problem, he said.
The fronds on the artificial palm tree, when put outside, would absorb light just like solar panels, said Strang.
“They’re more aesthetically pleasing,” Strang said of the product.
Eventually, Strang said, he plans to develop a version of the Electrisitree that would have spinning branches, so the machine would also function as a turbine, to capture wind power.
Strang estimates one eight-foot tall tree would cost homeowners roughly $15,000 to install.
One tree generates roughly 80 watts of power, according to Strang. It would take eight to power a 1,200-square-foot home, Strang said.
Strang said the idea is the answer to a former ordinance in the town of Hillsborough in 2005. The ordinance, which has since been lifted, prohibited solar panels because of their look.
The concept comes at a time when cities throughout San Mateo County are encouraging solar energy and green building construction.
Casey Martin, administrator with Sustainable San Mateo County, said interest in solar is growing throughout residential communities. Its popularity could eventually create alternatives in looks in design compared to the current panels.
“There are so many technologies out there,” he said. “Potentially somewhere down the road something could be adopted on wide scale.”