Clearly a design better suited to sunny Italy than our native London, Toshiyuki Kita’s Sunplant, which we spotted in Milan this year, is an elaborate outdoor energy installation that fuses art with environmentally friendly gadget power. It’s a lovely metaphor: energy from the sun hits one of the plant’s eight PV panel ‘leaves’, which is then used to recharge up to 48 AA batteries that sit at the installation’s centre.

toshiyuki kita, sunplant, sanyo, eneloop, milan 2008, greenenergy design, rechargeable battery installation

Kita worked with Sanyo to realise the project. When we saw it on display in Milan, the unit was charging the company’s ‘Eneloop’ batteries, which can be recycled after their useful life of 1,000 charges. The leaves use Sanyo’s patented HIT solar cell technology, HIT being a catchier term for ‘heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer’, a technology that enables the cells to achieve the world’s highest power generation per square centrimetre.

The 375cm high unit is made a little more exciting by diverting a little of the solar energy to LED lights that adorn the plant and to two LCD screens that keep the user updated with the batteries’ progress. The design’s a one-off for the time being, but Studio Kita intend to keep experimenting and developing the concept. So perhaps there’s less to it than initially meets the eye, but it’s nice to think that green technology could form a centrepiece for your home, if you did need that many batteries.

+ Toshiyuki Kita
+ Sanyo Eneloop

+ Inhabitat Milan 2008 coverage