Solar Bloom
Submission to the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative NYC design competition

Artist Team: Robert Cervellione
Artist Location: New York City, USA

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Artist Descriptive Text:

Solar Bloom is a project which merges technology with nature to create a unique solar harvesting system. The project is adaptable, scalable and can be deployed on the site in phases. Visitors will be encouraged to inhabit the Solar Bloom clusters. The design of the clusters is intended to invoke an altered sense of nature, where natural elements intertwine with the man made. The clusters are envisioned as a place of play as well as for social and cultural activities. Visitors can escape the openness of the site and enjoy some shade from the blooms overhead gathering the sun energy. Visitors will be able to directly engage with the energy being harvested by providing outlets to allow charging and powering their devices.

At the heart of the Solar Bloom is a 3.4 Kw Free-Piston Sterling Dish Engine, a technology that is proven and easy to maintain. All the systems and design elements shown in the proposal are easily fabricated or commercially available. The design incorporates three main elements based on plant systems, the base (root system), the support (stems), and the solar collectors (blooms).

The base is made up of an interwoven concrete support system that is designed to stabilize the stem and blooms by distributing the load across a wide surface area. This will help ensure minimal impact to the delicate site condition by putting nominal pressure on the multiple layers which make up the landfill cap. The base also allows for the system to adapt to the varying slopes of the site and navigate around the numerous landfill elements such as the gas vents. The shape of the concrete base will also allow for all of the internal mechanics such as transformers and battery storage to be enclosed and out of sight. The base will also feature a grooved pattern in the concrete to foster the growth of natural moss and ground cover plants.

The design for the clusters stems is based on the idea of grafting. Each bloom will be supported by multiple grafted stems emanating from the base and merging at the bloom. This arrangement allows the system to become structurally stable. Each stem is connected to one or two other stems creating a rigid A-frame or tripod like arrangement. The stems are made of 18 inch diameter structural steel tubes that are curved in a series of 10 typical radii allowing for a modular construction of the stem system. The curved pipe sections are then cut to specific arc lengths and assembled together to create the stems. With the 10 modular radii there are over 2000 combinations possible allowing for varied and unique stem system.

At the top of the stems are the blooms which are the heart of the system. The blooms house a 3.4 kW free piston Sterling Engine with a 15.4 foot diameter reflective dish. The dish engine is enclosed with a translucent panel made of an eco-friendly resin that is 40 percent recycled content and 100 percent recyclable. The enclosure is illuminated at night with a series of energy efficient LED lights. The intensity of the LED lights at night will vary depending on the amount of energy the bloom collected for that day allowing the visitors to see a visual representation of the systems efficacy. The entire bloom is structured with a lightweight steel and aluminum support structure which is mounted to a 2 axis solar tracking system to ensure optimal collector efficiency.

Environmental Impact Statement

The proposed design will accommodate enough energy to sustain the entire phase I and Phase II energy demand of the site. The system is capable of producing 93,230 kWH/day which is over 4 times the energy required for phase II (assuming LEED building principles from table 15-3 of the FreshkillsGEIS). This would allow Freshkills Park to be a significantly net positive energy project.

The design, material, and construction follow LEED Green Building practices to ensure the least amount of environmental impact. The proposed design will not affect existing waterways, engineered systems, or infrastructure. The proposed system was design to float on the existing landfill which will distribute the weight of the system as well as conform to the natural slopes of the site and minimizing the impact on the landfill cap. The design also allows for access to existing infrastructure elements on the site. The design is modular in nature and a significant portion of the clusters can be manufactures off site allowing minimal disruption of the site during construction of the clusters.