Ja, wie wächst der denn? Beim Graviplant wachsen die Bäume durch ständige Drehung vertikal
©Visioverdis GmbH

03.12.20 Quirky green innovations Clara Müller • 5 min.

Scroll to Read

From wind farms to heat pumps, most ideas for producing green power and cutting carbon emissions area already well known. Some, however, are more offbeat and less familiar. Debate.Energy’s two-part series will highlight six of them. Part one features a sunken data center, horizontal gardens, and animal-shaped solar farms.

Microsoft’s Project Natick: an underwater data center

In June 2018 Microsoft submersed a 12-meter-long steel cylinder in 35 meters of water near the Orkney Islands off Scotland to test the viability of subsea data centers. In mid-2020 it hoisted the barnacle-coated object from the seabed to assess the results.

Letzte Arbeiten am Rechenzentrum, kurz bevor es vor den schottischen Orkney Inseln im Meer versenkt wurde. 
© Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

Microsoft's subsea data center before it was submersed in 2018 ©Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

According the company, submarine data centers offer five main advantages:

  1. More than half of the world's population lives within 200 kilometers of a seacoast. Shorter distances between people and data centers mean faster internet speeds.

  2. Submersed data centers are surrounded by abundant, cost-free cooling: seawater.

  3. . Microsoft’s initial findings are that data centers are readily compatible with sensitive ocean ecosystems. For example, the increase in ambient water temperature will be tiny (0.001 degrees Celsius), and the sound emitted by data centers is only audible within a few meters.

  4. The seabed provides a reliable, stable environment. IT components will be in an atmosphere of nitrogen, not oxygen, which will eliminate corrosion and, ideally, the need for maintenance.

  5. Nearby offshore wind farms or tidal power plants can provide renewable electricity.

Microsoft rated Project Natick a success. The fault rate, for example, was eight times lower than at a terrestrial data center. The company is convinced that underwater data centers make logistical, environmental, and economic sense. One option would be to produce shipping-container-sized data centers and transport them by truck or ship to where they’re needed.

Visioverdis: vertical gardens

Knick in der Linse? Nee. Der hängende Garten mit den Graviplant-Bäumen ist 50 Meter lang und 3,50 Meter breit und mittlerweile von der Uni Hohenheim an eine Fassade am Stuttgarter Rotebühlplatz  umgezogen
© Visioverdis GmbH

Stuttgart's vertical gardens with the graviplant which grows horizontally

In May 2020 a small (8.5 by 3.5 meters) rectangular garden was unveiled in central Stuttgart in southwest Germany. This wouldn’t normally be noteworthy. But this garden is attached to the facade of a building ten meters above the sidewalk and grows horizontally. It was developed by Visioverdis, a startup founded in 2017 by agronomist and gravitational biologist Dr. Alina Schick. Small motors cause the trees and bushes to rotate slowly (0.1 to 1.6 revolutions per minute) around their horizontal axis. This alters their perception of light and gravity and almost completely stops them from growing in length. Instead, their crowns become fuller and leafier, which makes photosynthesis more efficient. Sensors control the automatic irrigation, rotation, and LED lighting of the mini-garden. Visioverdis says its vertical gardens provide cities with a new, flexible option for expanding green spaces and thus urban carbon sequestering. They also help cool buildings. Visioverdis has received inquiries from other cities around Germany and elsewhere.

Panda power: animal-shaped solar farms

The giant panda is China’s national animal. The latest figures indicate that fewer than 1,900 live in the wild. To celebrate this beloved but endangered species, China has built two panda-shaped solar farms: a 100 MW facility in Datong roughly 300 kilometers west of Beijing and a 60 MW facility in Guangxi province bordering Vietnam. Monocrystalline solar modules represent the darker patches of the panda’s fur, thin-film modules the light patches. The solar farms have information centers to reinforce awareness of the environmental benefits of renewable energy and the importance of sustainable development. More panda solar farms are planned, including on the Fiji Islands and the Philippines.

Poland lacks pandas but has lots of deer. Fittingly, it intends to install a 10 MW deer-shaped solar farm outside Jelenia Gora, a town located about 35 kilometers from the Czech border. The deer’s features will be depicted by 30,000 black and blue solar modules. The solar farm, which will cost around €9 million to build, will produce enough green electricity to power about 4,500 households.

Part two will feature more curious sustainable innovations: futuristic super trees in Singapore, large floating solar farms, and playgrounds at street crossings in Barcelona.


The contents of this website are created with the greatest possible care. However, Uniper SE accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness and topicality of the content provided. Contributions identified by name reflect the opinion of the respective author and not always the opinion of Uniper SE.

You might also like

Energy • Economy Can electricity be both renewable and reliable? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Climate Cutting carbon cost-effectively Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 6 min.
Energy • Innovation Will hydrogen’s future arrive? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Energy • Climate • Economy Can our emissions be undone? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Innovation • Science A British biologist’s uncanny clairvoyance Dariush Jones • 6 min.
Energy • Society • Climate A new era, a new color, a new world view Dariush Jones • 5 min.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Energy • Society • Economy Russia modernizes its fossil power plants Dariush Jones • 7 min.
Energy • Society • Innovation Less fretting about jetting Thomas Schmidt • 4 min.
Energy • Innovation Harnessing more renewable energy, decarbonizing industry Thomas Schmidt • 3 min.
Energy • Event Debate.Energy Conference: Best of Jochen Brenner • 15 min.
Energy • Society “Corona is accelerating developments that we didn’t expect for several years” Hannah Meisters • 4 min.
Energy • Innovation “As green as hydrogen can get” Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 6 min.
Energy • Climate #Anthropause: is corona climate-friendly? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Energy • Climate • Politics • Economy Gas is the ideal enabler of a successful energy transition Andreas Schierenbeck, Vorstandsvorsitzender Uniper SE • 4 min.
Joe Biden
Energy • Society • Climate • Politics Biden's climate plan: jobs, workers, unions. Oh, and clean energy too. Dariush Jones • 6 min.
Energy • Innovation • Economy A different incentive for energy efficiency Thomas Schmidt • 7 min.
Donald Trump
Energy • Society • Politics • Climate Donald Trump's climate policy: “A golden age of energy dominance” Dariush Jones • 7 min.
Bremst der Coronavirus die Energiewende aus?
Energy • Climate • Society Opportunity or obstacle? What corona means for the energy transition Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 9 min.
Wasserstoff: Energieträger der Zukunft
Energy • Climate • Opinions Hydrogen: Jules Verne’s vision brought to life Andreas Schierenbeck, Vorstandsvorsitzender Uniper SE • 8 min.
Energy • Innovation Nuclear fusion: elation or illusion? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Economy • Science Fuel cells for passenger cars: hope or hype? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 8 min.
Energy • Climate Avast those emissions! Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 8 min.
Energy • Economy A solution for Germany’s green power glut Thomas Schmidt • 6 min.
Energy • Society • Climate Corona promotes energy conservation Thomas Schmidt • 6 min.
Society • Energy • Climate Is climate protection socially just? Thomas Schmidt • 8 min.
Energy • Economy • Politics Here comes the sun (again) Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
„Garden Rhapsody“: Die Super Trees in Singapur 
©Gardens by the Bay
Innovation • Climate • Energy Quirky green innovations: futuristic super trees and playgrounds at intersections Clara Müller • 6 min.
Warum verbrauchen wir nicht weniger Energie und nutzen grüneren Strom?
Energy • Society The residential consumption conundrum Charlotte Meyer • 5 min.
Um das Platzproblem zu lösen, schickt man die Solarpanele aufs Wasser
Energy • Innovation Swimming solar farms: the potential of “floatovoltaics” Clara Müller • 4 min.
Ist der Diesel etwa doch gar nicht so schlecht?
Energy • Climate • Economy Diesel cars are better than their reputation, yet still have no future in Germany Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Follow us on Social Media
Follow us
on Social Media

Your Internet connection is too slow, the page might be displayed delayed.