Solar Sculptures illuminate Portland

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Photovoltaic sculptures are lighting up the U.S. city of Portland, Oregon.

Seattle-based artist Dan Corson recently finished installing a permanent series of four 5-meter tall photovoltaic sculptures as part of a new urban design project to connect the city’s Old Town and Chinatown neighborhoods with the Pearl District.

The luminescent sculptures, entitled Nepenthes, are inspired by the carnivorous plants of the same name and made from robust layers of translucent fiberglass with LEDs wrapping around a steel spine. A custom created photovoltaic panel on top energizes the batteries and also allows circular shadows to backlight the tops of the sculptures in the daytime.

The 54 cells mounted on each sculpture generate 102.6 watts (peak) per sculpture, with the energy stored in a series of batteries located in the bases.

While each sculpture is physically identical, they all have unique translucent color and patterning that gives each piece its own distinctive personality.

"It is exciting to see them all come on after dark," said Corson. "People are always stroking them as they walk by because they resemble glass, or they are just curious how they feel. They really add some excitement and vitality to the neighborhood."

Portland’s Regional Arts & Culture Council Part oversaw the installation of Corson’s photovoltaic sculptures as part of the Portland Mall Project to increase pedestrian traffic in the city and an addition to Portland’s public art collection.