Crafted by Bristolians and planted in May 2015, the Energy Tree combines hands-on learning, clean energy and artistic excellence.
Both artwork and power source, the many hours of work it embodies reflect the need to fairly reduce energy consumption in the global north and address the crisis of climate change with positive solutions. Located in Bristol's Millennium Square, the project was led by Demand Energy Equality and made possible by partners John Packer (local artist, designer and fabricator of the sculpture), the Bristol Drugs Project (funder and creators of the Tree's solar PV 'leaves') and At-Bristol (hosts and public engagement partners).
There were many aims of the Energy Tree: to build something functional and beautiful that engages the public in energy futures; to work with people combatting drug & alcohol use and demonstrate the power of building collectively; and to reach people with our message of the need to reduce our energy demand as a society. The installation also provides free public phone charging.
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.
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.