On a certain stretch of I-35 near Austin, Texas, you can see futuristic flowers sprouting from the edge of an otherwise mundane retail shopping center. The cobalt blue petals of the Mueller SunFlowers strike a bold contrast against the powdery haze of the endless Texas sky.
The 15 flower-shaped photovoltaic solar panels were built in 2009. During the day, the panels would collect the sun’s energy during the day to return electricity to the city’s power grid and also power a complex series of blue LED lights that came to life at night. Since monitoring began, the ferrous foliage, officially titled “SunFlowers - An Electric Garden,” produced over 380,000 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to offset more than 565,000 miles worth of carbon emissions from the average American car.
The Mueller SunFlowers are Austin’s largest public art installation, and visitors can even follow a trail that winds among their towering stems. The industrial flowers perfectly communicate both the uniqueness of the Texas city and its devotion to energy conservation.
The SunFlowers mark the entrance to the Mueller Village, a residential and commercial development built on the site of Austin’s first official city airport. According to the designers, public art team Harries/Heder, the solar SunFlowers were meant to celebrate the message of ecological stewardship championed by the Mueller Village developers and the city of Austin. They call the site “an icon for the sustainable, LEED certified Mueller Development and a highly visible metaphor for the energy conscious City of Austin.”
Know Before You Go
The lights on the flowers have burnt out and will no longer light up at night. Update: They have not collected any solar power since August of 2016.