In support of the Department of Energy Sunshot initiative target of $1.25 per watt photovoltaics systems for commercial applications, whole system designs were pursued using the analogical design methodology, an essential step in the bio inspired design approach. A functional decomposition of solar panel systems was conducted, and then key functions critical to system integrity and cost reduction were identified. Three sources of bio-inspiration were mainly used: hierarchical structures as a common design dimension exploited in natural systems, and leaves’ ability to maintain position through changes in shape and angle of attack when triggered by wind flow, and limpet shells’ reduction of hydrodynamic forces by way of natural geometrical features. The design team developed concepts with varying degrees of abstraction then attempted to reconcile them with other functional requirements. Variants that descended from the leaf concept were generally found to be biophilic and offer aesthetic value; however, presented shortcomings in electrical design and installation procedure (Kellert 2008). Alternatively, concepts inspired by hierarchical structures and limpet shells were found to have greater variability, enabling reconciliation with other functional requirements, resulting in a complete system solution capable of meeting the cost reduction objective. From the analysis of these design variants, we may conclude that transferring solution principles directly from nature is best done when there is small set of functional requirements that must be fulfilled and value in a biophilic design. However, in cases of significant system complexity, abstracted lessons from nature may be found to be more flexible and easily reconciled with multiple requirements.

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