It’s no secret that solar energy is making real progress around the world. With companies such as the Elon Musk–backed SolarCity adding practicality and panache to the young industry, it seems that more people are understanding the limitless potential generated by the sun. Similar, in ways, to when countries scoured the earth for oil, the race for renewable energy technology has a sense of urgency. The winners in this game will possess the greater power that comes from new technology, as well as new jobs and greater energy security. Which is one of the biggest reasons why the United Arab Emirates—a nation among the top oil-rich countries in the world—is shifting some focus toward solar energy. And it is doing so in original ways.
As Dubai prepares for the World Expo 2020, “Smart Palm” trees have been installed throughout the city. The device, which gets its named from its palm tree–like design, uses solar energy to provide free wi-fi, charging stations, and much-needed seating and shade from the region’s sweltering heat (temperatures commonly soar into the 90s/100s in summer). Located on beaches and in public piazzas, the Smart Palm trees also have several security features: Each unit comes equipped with a 360-degree camera as well as an emergency button to notify authorities. What’s more, a touch screen provides city information and public messages of importance from the government.
To date, roughly 50 Smart Palm trees have been erected throughout the city. The panels, which are located on top of the palm trees, have enough energy to power green LED lights at night. Not only does this make the trees aesthetically pleasing, but it also makes them easier to spot at night.