Smartflower Solar Review: Beautiful Solar for Up to $65,000

Most of Smartflower's beautiful and unique sun-tracking solar sculptures aren't purchased by homeowners. Cost is a big reason.

Smartflower opened and facing forward.

Smartflower solar panels unfurl in the morning and track the sun across the sky.


In a world filled with countless rectangular solar panels, Smartflower is a rare, novel solar product. Part energy system and part industrial art installation, it's essentially a huge flower constructed of custom solar modules that open its "petals" and autonomously track the sun all day long before closing at sunset. 

Smartflower was invented in Vienna in 2014, and a few years later current company CEO James Gordon, who had worked for decades in the energy industry, saw a video online of the system operating. He booked a flight to Austria to meet with the company and wound up acquiring the distribution rights for Smartflower in the Americas. A couple of years later Gordon bought the entire company and moved it to Boston. 

"I thought it was such a unique and different product and aesthetically beautiful," Gordon told me. "The product itself was inspired by biomimicry; looking at a sunflower and how it opens as the sun rises and points the petals to the sun and follows the sun across the sky and then the petals close for the evening."

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What is Smartflower solar?

Smartflower isn't a science fair solar project. It's a large solar robot that Gordon says can generate up to 6,500 kilowatt-hours per year and look good doing it. Most of Smartflower's customers are commercial or institutional consumers, but the company also works increasingly with homeowners who are interested in either a grid-tied or off-grid setup.

How is Smartflower different from traditional solar panels?

A quick glance at Smartflower makes it clear how different this solar sculpture is from the solar panel systems we're used to seeing on rooftops or ground-mounted arrays. Aside from its looks, its dual-axis tracking capability allows Smartflower to generate up to 40% more energy than typical fixed solar panels, Gordon said.

Although it may seem like a more complex piece of equipment, and truly is in many ways, Smartflower comes ready to connect to the grid or to your off-grid setup in just a few steps. 

So far, Smartflower has been popular for commercial projects. Gordon says they are often used by companies wanting to showcase their commitment to sustainability. Smartflowers have also been deployed for off-grid uses, including for a whale-watching center in remote Quebec. 

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What do I get from Smartflower?

Smartflower's solar installations are ground-mounted: The panels, inverter and optional battery are part of one freestanding structure that is delivered fully assembled. Installation is about as close to plug-and-play as any major solar installation can claim. One Smartflower stands about 16 feet tall when its 12 solar petals are fully unfurled. The inverter and optional batteries are housed within the pedestal (the "stem" of the Smartflower).

While you're paying for the novelty and aesthetics with a Smartflower, it's worth noting that you will also be getting more out of these solar modules than you would in just about any other installation. This is due largely to the dual-axis tracking capability, but there's also natural cooling ventilation from being nine feet off the ground versus mounted on a roof that collects heat from the sun all day.

The system costs two to three times as much as the average residential solar installation, so it's not the ideal choice for the type of consumer who's looking to maximize energy savings. It's the rare premium solar product in an industry where the primary product is very nearly a commodity at this point. One bit of good news is that Smartflower is eligible for the federal renewable energy tax credit and other incentives.

What solar equipment does Smartflower install?

Smartflower generates up to 2.5 kilowatts at peak capacity from custom-manufactured panels that Gordon says are competitive with the best on the market in terms of efficiency. They're also self-cleaning, with brushes on the underside of the panels that clean them twice a day when the petals furl and unfurl.

"By keeping those solar panels clean from dirt, pollen, bird droppings, dust… it's more efficient," he said.

The Smartflower opens and closes daily, which also keeps it from accumulating too much snow, especially during overnight storms. Of course, if it snows during the day, you can still be out of luck. 

The company offers two main products: The grid-connected Smartflower consisting of the self-cleaning, sun-tracking energy station, and the Smartflower Plus, which adds an 11-kilowatt lithium battery and can be grid-tied or fully off-grid. 

The Smartflower Plus is an all-in-one package that includes an inverter and comes ready to connect to whatever facility needs powering. 

The company also offers an "EV" option that adds an electric vehicle charging kiosk to the package. 

Smartflower inverters come from either Fronius or Sunny Boy and will have an efficiency rating of 96.5%, said Gordon. That's near the highest-performing inverters on the market.

What warranties does Smartflower offer?

There is a 25-year performance warranty on the panels similar to what we see throughout the industry. The inverter has a 10-year warranty and the system has a two-year warranty. There is some basic lubrication that needs to be done every year or two, but Gordon says this is covered by the system warranty and there is no other maintenance to worry about. 

The two-year system warranty is a little bit surprising given the price tag of the system. Your average solar installation has a workmanship warranty that typically starts at 10 years. In fairness, it's not unusual for a complex piece of machinery with a whole lot of moving parts that can break down to have shorter warranties. 

Still, we have to imagine some unhappy Smartflower owners have to pay for service calls more than two years after installation.

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Does Smartflower offer monitoring services?

The Smartflower app monitors the system's operation and production. You can also control the system, setting it to open, close, clean or canopy mode remotely. 

The app is available in both Apple and Google app stores. It doesn't yet have any reviews.

Does Smartflower use subcontractors?

While Smartflower installation is significantly less complex than the average residential rooftop solar system, that doesn't mean it's an insignificant piece of equipment. 

Smartflower weighs over 1,600 pounds, so it will need to be unloaded with some sort of forklift or small crane, but this will be handled by a trained installer. The company works with a network of dealers and installation partners around the country. 

Gordon says installing a Smartflower is comparable to installing a permanent stand-by generator in terms of complexity (it's not too complex for a professional to do in a couple of hours). Having a concrete foundation ready to mount the Smartflower on is not always necessary, but may be desired by the customer. 

Installation is simple enough that the company is willing to train a homeowner's preferred electrician or contractor to do it, Gordon said. The training can be done remotely.

Smartflower closed up near a pond.

Smartflower closes when the sun goes down.


How much do Smartflower panels cost?

The base Smartflower itself is $39,950 plus installation and shipping charges, and the Smartflower Plus is $65,500 plus shipping and installation. Installation costs vary by difficulty and complexity of each setup, ranging from roughly $3,000 to $7,000, according to Gordon. 

If we consider the price per watt for new solar systems is generally in the $3-$4 range in 2023 according to national estimates, then a Smartflower system costs between three and four times as much as conventional rooftop solar. And that's with the 40% bump in energy production from Smartflower's dual-axis tracking already factored in.

The map below uses pricing data from FindEnergy.com. Installation prices don't account for federal, state or local incentives. States without available data are grayed out.

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What financing options does Smartflower offer?

Smartflower customers are typically able to cut a check for the system, but the company has recently launched an equipment financing program for the commercial market and is looking to implement a residential financing program in the next 12 to 24 months. Gordon said it could be possible to do one-off financing for homeowners right now in some cases. 

Does Smartflower operate in my state? How do I order?

Smartflower is available for installation almost anywhere in North America. 

Gordon says the company is working to expand its network of installers but will work to find an installer anywhere it doesn't already have one trained. 

Zooey Liao / CNET

The ordering process is as simple as visiting the company website and contacting them. Expect more personalized customer service than you would likely receive elsewhere in the solar industry. 

Due to the plug-and-play nature of the system, anticipate a much smoother and shorter purchase and installation process than you might experience with a residential rooftop system. You'll still need to check on needed permits and permission to operate from your utility for a grid-tied system. 

Is Smartflower the best choice?

Before considering any solar system, be sure to shop around, get multiple quotes and do your due diligence to ensure you have a good sense of what's out there and how Smartflower is situated in a market full of many, many options. Remember that CNET does not directly test any of the equipment mentioned in this or other solar equipment reviews. We have not gone through the ordering process with Smartflower or other solar companies. 

Smartflower isn't going to be the best choice for most people interested in going solar, which Gordon acknowledges. If you're interested in making a statement with your solar system and perhaps inspiring others to learn more about solar, it might make sense for you. The equipment that makes up a Smartflower, while not the most widely used in the industry, does the job well. The system is one-of-a-kind, super efficient and can be hooked up by your local electrician in just a few hours. Keep in mind that you'll be paying well above the market price for solar power for a 1,600-pound autonomous sun-tracking robot with a two-year warranty. 


A Smartflower unfurls in Paris.


If you are in a situation where you were planning to install a ground-mounted situation anyhow, it might be worth taking a closer look at Smartflower. You might wind up with a more efficient and attractive system compared to other options that will also be far simpler to install.

Because the system can shift to face the morning and the evening sun, Smartflower is likely to produce more energy at those times of day compared to fixed arrays oriented south. This could be an advantage as more utilities add time-of-use pricing that raises prices in the early evening. Smartflower may be able to offset more of the high-cost energy than other solar options. The extent of this advantage will depend on the fixed array a Smartflower is replacing, but fixed rooftop arrays will likely continue to be the cheaper option, even with Smartflower's tracking.

For some customers, there's additional peace of mind that they can install solar without messing with their roof, Gordon said. While solar installers typically guarantee installation won't cause leaks for a number of years, a ground mount might be an attractive option to homeowners who want to go solar before replacing their roofs. Solar panels can be removed and reinstalled for roof repairs, but usually at a cost.

That said, you'll inevitably end up paying more per watt than most other options and need to ensure you have a platform that can support Smartflower's weight. And be sure to keep some extra cash around to pay for any repairs or maintenance that need to be done after the two-year warranty on the system's moving parts runs out.

Smartflower will work best for people who love the unique look or want to make a visible statement about their energy use. If you love the look and have extra money to spend though, you won't be able to get Smartflower from any other company. 


  • Beautiful design
  • High efficiency
  • Simple and quick installation


  • Big price tag
  • Space required for installation
  • Short system warranty

How we evaluate solar companies

Reviewing solar companies in a hands-on way is difficult. Accounting for all the differences from project to project is impossible. To provide a helpful review, we focused on what we can measure and meaningfully compare among companies.

We focus on three buckets of criteria: equipment, warranties and service. 

Within the equipment category, companies receive scores for the panels, inverters and batteries they install. Warranties include guarantees on the panels, workmanship and weatherization against leaks. Companies earn points for service if they offer a price match, a meaningful level of price transparency and a well-rated app for monitoring solar production. They lose points if there are major issues pertaining to customer service (lawsuits, investigations or clear reputations for shoddy service). These issues will always be detailed in the review.

You can read a detailed look at how the scoring breaks down.

We don't consider the average price of a company's installations in their score. This information is difficult to find and hard to compare across service areas (and even roof-to-roof). Companies are often slow to disclose it, too. We also leave out easily found but not useful information like how many states a company operates in.

Smartflower FAQs

How much does a Smartflower solar panel system cost?

The basic Smartflower 2.5 kilowatt system costs $39,950 plus shipping and installation costs. 

How much does a Smartflower Plus cost?

A Smartflower Plus system with an integrated 11-kilowatt battery is $65,500 plus shipping and installation costs.

Article updated on December 22, 2023 at 10:37 AM PST

Our Experts

Written by 
Eric Mack
Andrew Blok
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects, and CNET's "Living off the Grid" series Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Andrew Blok Editor I
Andrew Blok is a former editor for CNET who covered home energy, with a focus on solar. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make smart energy decisions. He's a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
Expertise Solar providers and portable solar power; coffee makers, grinders and products Credentials
  • Master's degree in environmental journalism
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