SmartFlower offers sunny welcome to Founders Hall, Innovation Hall

"Part-art installation, part-solar energy technology and part-educational tool" — University Architect Brad Moore answers questions on the newly installed SmartFlower.

Installed this spring outside of the newly-dedicated Innovation Hall and Founders Hall, the new dynamic photovoltaic array SmartFlower serves as the “showpiece” for the university.

The SmartFlower unfolds each morning, follows the sun’s light at the perfect angle and retracts once the sun sets. The fully-integrated system is inspired by nature and will provide clean energy to the two newest buildings in Elon’s Innovation Quad.

University Architect and Director of Planning, Design and Construction Management Brad Moore answered a few questions about the newly installed SmartFlower, its purpose and what it will add to the university.

The Smartflower solar device in front of Founders Hall, April 18, 2023.

What does the addition of the SmartFlower mean for campus?

As a display that is part-art installation, part-solar energy technology and part-educational tool, the SmartFlower reduces Elon University’s carbon footprint by producing renewable energy for Founders Hall and Innovation Hall.

How does the SmartFlower operate?

The SmartFlower is designed to mimic how sunflowers naturally absorb solar energy by moving with the sun. The device uses its internal programming and location data to track the sun from east to west and north and south to maximize renewable energy production. The SmartFlower innovative design will allow it to produce 40% more energy than a similarly sized fixed solar panel.

What is the purpose of the flower?

The SmartFlower is a visible demonstration of sustainability, creativity and engineering at work. It will generate between 4,000 and 6,000 kilowatts hours of renewable energy annually and will help supply clean energy to Founders Hall and Innovation Hall.

What was the decision behind putting a SmartFlower on campus, specifically outside of Innovation Hall and Founders Hall?

As a display of technology made possible by investment and advancement of STEM-related education, the SmartFlower is the perfect centerpiece to anchor the plaza outside of Founders Hall and Innovation Hall. The hope is that its presence will inspire Elon’s students to go out to change the world with their ideas.

How will the energy harvested by the flower be used to assist facilities on campus?

The SmartFlower will provide clean, renewable energy that will supplant a portion of the fossil fuel-generated electrical energy required to power lighting, equipment and building systems within Founders Hall and Innovation Hall.

The Smartflower in front of Founders Hall, with the Inman Admissions Welcome Center in the background, on the campus of Elon University, April 24, 2023.

How unique is the SmartFlower on college campuses?

By installing a SmartFlower on campus, Elon University has joined a distinct and global group of colleges and universities that have committed to renewable energy production on campus, while encouraging and empowering students to learn about transforming the world with innovative technology.

How will the flower be a “showpiece” for the university?

When students, faculty, staff and other members of the community walk by the SmartFlower, they will see a tangible example of our campus investment in STEM. Our SmartFlower will serve as a symbol for the university’s commitment to sustainability while demonstrating our role as a leader in education and innovation. The SmartFlower will be a powerful showpiece because it will spark interest and conversation about renewable energy and the importance of STEM-related education in our future.