For India’s new innovation in solar technology, scientists turned to one of nature’s best sunlight-harvesters: the tree. The Solar Power Tree produces amounts of energy comparable to much larger set-ups in a fraction of the area, Inhabitat reports.

According to India’s Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, about 3.5 acres of land is typically required to generate a single megawatt of solar power. But the Solar Power tree—developed by scientists at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute and launched by Dr. Harsh Vardhan in New Delhi this summer—only takes up about 4 square feet of space.

The invention consists of structures supporting photovoltaic panels branching out from a central pole and generates up to 5 kilowatts, which is enough energy to light five houses. A traditional solar panel layout would require 400 square feet of land to produce the same amount of power.

Because the solar panels on the tree are positioned high off the ground, they’re more efficient than traditional rigs. One solar tree is capable of gathering 10 to 15 percent more energy than the ground-based alternative. It also comes with a built-in battery backup system so it can keep providing energy for up to two hours after the sun goes down.

The solar tree’s compact package makes it an appealing option for urban areas and rural regions with limited free space. It’s already completed successful trial runs in three locations in India, a country where roughly 300 million people don’t have access to electricity.

[h/t Inhabitat]

All images: Dr. Harsh Vardhan/Twitter

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