In design, biomimicry — the idea that nature does design best — is all the rage. So it must have been a head-slapping "duh" moment when solar-power designers sought inspiration from sunflowers — a plant that has "sun" in its name, for goodness' sake! It turns out that sunflowers are really good at using the sun (NO WAY), and mimicking their structure can allow designers to seriously reduce the size of concentrating solar power farms.

Concentrating solar power facilities use mirrors to focus solar energy at a single point, usually a high tower. But CSP fields of mirrors take up a lot of space, and unlike solar panels, you can’t just stick a CSP generator on top of your house. (For real, they need a LOT of space.) Copying the layout of sunflowers' florets, though, can boost efficiency and reduce the amount of land needed by about 20 percent.

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