in Houston, Texas
Austin Energy customers chip in $65K for solar garden - named 4th most bizarre public art display in country
Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011, 02:48PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Well, it might not be a 32-foot-high blue steel horse in the middle of a Denver field or a light wall of human faces spitting in Chicago, but Austin has managed, once again, to burnish its weird cred.

A Yahoo News feature, Wanderlust, recently named the wildly overgrown solar garden along the Mueller homes project hike and bike trail in our state capital the fourth most bizarre display of public art in the country.

“Sun Flowers - An Electric Garden,” for those of you who are not giant replicant florists, is 15 photovoltaic towers spread out over 540 feet with 18- to 24-foot stems, seven-sided petals and wiry stamen that collect sunlight during the day and light up at night.

Austin’s largest public art display was paid for with $500,000 from Catellus Development Group that built the housing and business project and a $50,000 donation from Applied Materials. Austin Energy customers chipped in with a $65,375 solar energy rebate.

The flowers generate more than 20,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year, enough to power one home and, perhaps, a spacious apartment, according to Austin Energy estimates. Solar collector batteries keep the flowers lit through the night.

Texas Solar Power Co., which installed the solar equipment in the garden, went on to win two stimulus contracts totalling $180,000 to install solar energy systems at the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, about 50 miles down the Gulf Coast from Galveston and the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Amarillo.

Like the nearly $300 million in state solar projects funded through the stimulus, they are not likely to pay for themselves anytime before we are all pushing up sunflowers.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of 'Sunflowers - An Electric Garden'  by David Newsom.
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