When discussing potential ways to slow climate change, two of the ideas that are almost always presented are use of alternative energy sources and the preservation of trees. In the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Municipality has come up with a way to combine the two – trees as alternative energy sources. Okay, so they’re not real trees, but the solar-powered, 3D printed palm trees provide a place for locals to rest and recharge both literally and figuratively.
The palm trees, known as Smart Palms, are being developed as “community tech hubs” by D Idea Media, a media, marketing and design company based in Dubai. The 20-foot-tall trees are made from concrete and 3D printed, fiber-reinforced plastic with added ultraviolet and humidity protection. They are equipped with mono crystal solar panels, which collect enough solar power to not only provide illumination at night, but to act as WiFi hubs and access points for users to charge their phones, laptops and tablets. Currently, the trees have the capability of charging 50 devices at a time, and project a WiFi radius of approximately 53 meters. Touch screens provide information about the surrounding area. Crucially, the trees also have cameras attached, so visitors can take the ever-important selfie while waiting for their devices to charge.
“For us, it was important to translate the important cultural identity of the date palm from being a plant that provided shelter, building materials, shade and sustenance, to our Smart Palm, designed to provide data, connectivity, energy and all in a sustainable manner,” said Viktor Nelpa, founder of D Idea Media.
So far, three of the Smart Palms have been installed around the city, at Zabeel Park, Jumeirah Beach, and the Dubai World Trade Center. A fourth will be installed later this month, at a location not yet specified. Ultimately, the city plans to add the palm trees to every beach in the communities of Al Mamzar, Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim. The trees also serve as beach information stations, with displays showing beach conditions, rules, events and public announcements.
“The fourth unit will be another milestone as it will be a unique structure created using 3D printing technology and it will be the biggest such outdoor structure,” said Nelepa.
The Smart Palms, which took ten months from conception to completion, are part of the Smart Dubai initiative, which was launched in 2014 with the goal of making Dubai the leader in smart technology within three years.
The city has already been selected to host the 2020 World Expo, which has been given the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” and will focus on the ideas of sustainability, opportunity and mobility.
If the Smart Palms are any indication, Dubai is poised to set an example for the rest of the world in terms of how technology can be used creatively to conserve resources. And D Idea Media is far from finished with the palms; ideas for future versions include more smart and environmentally-friendly features. You can follow progress at the Smart Palm website and Facebook page.
“Subsequent Smart Palms will have ATM machines and utility bill payment services,” said Nelepa. “Our team has also started to find new ways in which the Smart Palm can support other forms of sustainable generation, specifically through air and water purification modules.”
What are your thoughts on this innovative approach to energy? Let us know in the 3D Printed Solar Palm forum thread on 3DPB.com.