The cobalt blue petals of the Mueller SunFlowers strike a bold contrast against the powdery haze of the endless Texas sky.
The futuristic flowers are first visible along Interstate 35, sprouting from the edge of an otherwise mundane retail shopping center. The fifteen flower-shaped photovoltaic solar panels collect the sun’s energy during the day to power the installation’s complex series of blue LED lights which come to life at night, while also returning electricity to the city’s power grid. Since monitoring began, the ferrous foliage, officially titled “SunFlowers - An Electric Garden,” has produced over 300,000 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to offset 451,024 miles worth of carbon emissions from the average American car, and this number continues to grow. The energy collection can even be monitored in near-realtime at the landmark’s website.
The SunFlowers mark the entrance to the Mueller Village, an environmentally conscious 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.”
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.