renewable energy art

Inspired by the folks at Land Art Generator Initiative who are leading the charge, I wanted to share some art installations that blur the line with infrastructure.  While I’ve already covered Infrastructural Art, it’s worth looking into how renewable energy manifests itself in art or as art, especially since most of the examples found are public art pieces. 

[Note I got a pending post about solar farms that covers the more creative end of industrial design that will have additional examples that just might transcend into being sculpture].

There are several emerging genres of renewable energy art, that range from the photovoltaics or wind turbines powering sculptural lights versus the shape of the energy generating surfaces as sculpture, to using the PV cells or wind turbines for purely decorative effects, last but not least, is representative art depicting various renewable technologies.

I don’t consider all the small wind turbines sprouting like weeds in many cities to be art, just kinetic street decorations. At the other end of the art/decoration continuum are Theo Jensen’s Strandbeests and Calder’s mobiles which are certainly art – but since they don’t generate energy beyond their own motion, they will also not be included in this post either.

Lights on sticks

Lights on a stick seems to be the most common expression of renewable energy as public art as site lighting is required in many different situations…

Flash@Hebburn (2009), Hebburn Riverside Park on the banks of the River Tyne by artist Charles Quick. Hebburn, North East England. Photo credit: Adam Lawrenson

CO2LED was a temporary installation made by Jack Sanders, Robert Gay, and Butch Anthony in Rosslyn, Virginia in 2007.

Gorbet Design’s ‘Solar Collector’ (2008) installation at the Waterloo Regional Operations Centre in Cambridge, Canada is interactive and folks can program patterns [though it’s currently undergoing ‘maintenance’] via the website.

‘Stuifmeel Ideeen’, aka ‘Pollinating Ideas’ in Amsterdam East, captures the kinetic energy of park users with a baton mechanism that then powers the lights (helped by pv panels).

PowerPlant in Pasadena, CA (2006) by UeBERSEE seems to be powered by piezoelectrics capturing the 78′ tall pole’s swaying in the wind.

Whirling lights (on a stick)

Near Munich in 2009, there was a collaboration between Siemens, and artist Michael Pendry [check out the installation sequence!] to illuminate the blades of a 30m diameter wind turbine.

Other Luminous Forms

The ‘Solar Sunflower Garden’ is in  Austin, Texas, just off I-35 by Mags Harries and Lajos Héder.

The ‘Solar Cube‘ is by Solar Design Associates for the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, CA. Is this architecture or art?

Interactive light (powered by the sun, or wind, or people)

From the dance floor to billboard, these ‘sculptures’ have little pretense in being ‘art’…

E-Static Shadows by Dr. Zane Berzina and architect Jackson Tan, explores the ‘poetic potential of static electricity found in our everyday environments, surrounding our everyday interactions.’

The ‘Sustainable Dance Floor’ might not be art, but it makes generating energy fun!

The Greenpix Zero Energy Media Wall in Beijing starts to cross genres between interactive installations and BIPV art.


To justify the cost of building integrated photovoltaics, they are often called ‘art’. Somehow most of these examples fall short of the ‘is it art’ smell test and falls into being mere decoration.

Creative Solar (& Wind) installations

These are in the ‘energy first, but hey let’s make it look better’ category of solar and wind farms

Solar Sunflowers (another SDA installation).

The WindWorks Plaza (2007)  in Cleveland, OH was created by the artist team of Allan Wexler and Ellen Wexler (New York, NY) and is intended to be interpretive of the energy produced by one turbine. The Wexler Studio has other wind turbine specific installations, like ‘In the Shadow of the Wind‘ from 2000.

Pictorial representation of renewable energy

Paintings to photographs, (but no sculptures yet) depict renewable energy infrastructure as icon – so windmills, solar panels, and cords of biomass fill a genre that seems to be about feeling good while not actually doing good (or being good art). I’m not sure that this genre has any significance to the art world or the sustainability movement, but we’ll see…

William Roy at UIUC (he’s a geochemist) verges into folk art.

Photomontage by Paul Cooklin – this is a commercial photographer.


Guess a battery would have been too anachronistic or clunky…


There is also a growing movement to consider the environmental impact of the art world. While renewable energy has yet to power an entire gallery or artist studio – this dialog is bridging between aesthetics/theory and the cultural role of art to explore existential issues – but this is a topic for another time. [if you don’t want to wait for infrascapedesign to get around to it, just search for ‘sustainable art’.]

more examples

Solar Artwork.

Thomas A. Lindsey

Stanford SOLAR Center

Solarsail Münsingen

Sarah Hall Studio

Jayant Shidhaye

Sanyo Solar Ark
Solarstraße Gleisdorf

4 thoughts on “renewable energy art

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention renewable energy art « Infrascape Design --

  2. FastCompany via Treehugger showcases some urban wind turbine designs by NL Architects that are most appropriately labled ‘renewable energy art’ as they violate many laws of aerodynamics and are likely to be very inefficient.

    Another ‘Tree is this carbon sequestering concept – again this is art not practicality…

    carbon sequestering 'trees'

  3. Pingback: Energy-in-art Blog in den USA | energy-in-art

  4. Pingback: » Solar Panel Installation Hebburn

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