But a company in Austria is hoping to put an end to that debate once and for all with a solution that does both.
Inspired by how a sunflower follows the path of the sun as it moves from East to West, Thomas Daubek and Alexandar Swatek created the all-in-one solar photovoltaic system called smartflower POP.
The smartflower POP is designed to remain in a folded up position when not in use, but as the sun rises, the system unfolds its solar ‘petals’ into an 18m2 circle, evoking the image of a sunflower. As the sun moves across the sky, the smartflower POP tracks it, constantly remaining at an optimal 90-degree angle to absorb the sun’s rays—effectively boosting yield by up to 40% compared to a stationery rooftop solar PV system, the company claims. When the sun goes down, the system folds back up into a safe position.
The smartflower POP also tracks wind speeds and retracts its petals into the folded position when winds reach 54 kilometers an hour to avoid damage. When the wind speeds drop, the petals unfold again.
The solar panels are also made with weatherproofed thin glass that autonomously remove dust and dirt as the petals open and close. Since the panels aren’t mounted to rooftops, the smartflower POP uses back ventilation, keeping the modules 10 to 20 degrees cooler than a rooftop installation. Depending on the region, the smartlower POP can deliver between 3,400 and 6,200 kWh a year. The company has also guaranteed the technology’s performance for 25 years.
The system, which is available in eight different colors, is also designed to be plug-and-play. When the smartflower POP is delivered, it can be installed in under an hour and is anchored to the ground using an earth anchor or concrete foundation. If buyers move, they can simply take the system with them when they go.