Re-posted from http://www.demandenergyequality.org/
The Energy Tree in Bristol’s central Millennium Square combines community collaboration, artistic excellence, science and grass-roots energy activism in a unique project.
There were many aims of the project: build something functional and beautiful that engages the public in energy in an extremely uncertain time; work with people combating drug & alcohol use and demonstrate the power of building collectively; celebrate the community energy movement; present a positive vision of possible energy futures – and of course reach people with our message of the need to reduce our energy demand as a society.
What’s more, it provides free public phone charging and WIFI (though you’ll have to tackle our Energy Quiz to access the latter!).
The 20ft metal sculpture uses bio-mimicry to imitate a natural tree form, with 36 ‘leaves’ composed of solar photo-voltaic (‘solar PV’) panels, fabricated by participants from the Bristol Drugs Project during practical energy workshops delivered by Demand Energy Equality. The electrical power produced is stored in batteries at its base and fed through the Tree’s ‘roots’ out of the soil through publicly accessible charging cables. A live data stream, visualised below, allows us to measure the Tree’s power output on a minute-by-minute basis.
– Bristol Drugs Project volunteer
The back story
In September 2012 we invited community groups to help us build our Solar Tree, on the Edible Futures growing project, Brislington, south east Bristol. One of the organisations that joined us was the Bristol Drugs Project, a charity working with people across Bristol recovering from alcohol and drugs use. You can find out more about the project and BDP’s involvement in this short film.
Fast forward 9 months to Spring 2013, and we received a call from BDP inviting us to collaborate with them on an extended programme of work with their service users, with a second ‘Energy Tree’ as a public focal point for the achievements of all those involved.
As well as demonstrating the positive experiences previous participants had gained from being involved in the original Solar Tree project, this was a fantastic opportunity to expand the reach of our educational workshops and contribute to the brilliant work BDP and its service users do.
The only problem we had left was where to put our 20ft steel sculpture: designed as a public engagement tool it seemed like something the good people at At-Bristol would be interested in. So we got in touch. They were. And it turned out they owned Millennium Square.
Fast forward another 9 months and with the support of a Lush Charity Pot award and a strategic grant from Bristol 2015 European Green Capital we were able to assemble the Energy Tree in Millennium Square in time for its public launch on 21st April 2015.