Solar design in contemporary architecture is rooted in the profession's sustainable turn. The relationship between architecture and energy is tied to both passive strategies and performance via more recent innovations in technology. As one way to begin addressing the global climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions, solar design is reshaping cities and architecture around the world.
Solar Panels: The Latest Architecture and News
UNStudio has just completed the remodeling works of the Hanwha headquarters building in Seoul, while the building remained fully occupied. The refurbishment operations have created a modern establishment that meets the current sustainability requirements.
Solar tiles operate identically to the photovoltaic panels that are already widely used in construction. The primary difference between them lies in their assembly: whereas photovoltaic panels are attached to an existing roof, solar tiles are part of the roof's construction from the start, taking the place of regular tiling.
The tiles are formed by photovoltaic cells that, when they receive sunlight, create an electric field capable of providing electrical energy for use inside the building. Each tile is connected by cables to the power distribution board.
On November 13th, 2019, a new train station was inaugurated in the city of Matera, Italy. The project, a new building and future park designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, represents an important link between the city’s old town, post-war and modern districts and a key point of access to the city of Matera in the year that it’s set to become the European Capital of Culture.
The California Building Standards Commission has approved a new rule starting in 2020 that requires all new homes built in the state to include solar panels. As the first of its kind in the United States, the new rule includes an incentive for homeowners to add a high-capacity battery to their electrical system. The move hopes to help meet the state's goal of sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions while drawing all electricity from renewable energy sources.
When it comes to increasing the energy efficiency of a project, solar panels provide many benefits, but architects often avoid using them for aesthetic reasons.
Today there are alternative solutions for adding solar receptors to the individual elements that make up the roof—the zone of greatest exposure to sunlight—that are less conspicuous and very effective in terms of energy production. One such example is solar thermal panels, which use the power of the sun to heat the building, produce hot water or generate heat for pools.
These new panels are made from natural slate stone, in formats ranging from 32x22 cm to 50x25 cm. The material elements not only ensure thermal inertia and impermeability, but are also able to heat up to 50 liters of water per day per square meter of surface -- all while avoiding the average emission of 90 kg of CO2.
A new challenger has stepped into the ring of home solar batteries, and it’s a name you may recognize: global furniture retailer IKEA.
A competitor to Tesla’s now-available Powerwall home battery and solar roof system, IKEA’s home battery will be first sold in the UK, where owners of solar-powered homes can typically only sell excess energy produced back to the national grid at a loss. The battery pack will instead allow that power to be stored for later use, helping homeowners reduce their electricity bills by as much as 70 percent.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced via Twitter that his company’s fully-integrated solar roof system is nearly ready to be released to the public, and will begin taking orders on the shingles starting next month.
The solar roof project was announced this past October after acquiring energy services provider SolarCity for $2.1 billion. Offered in four different styles – smooth glass, textured glass, French slate and Tuscan glass – the shingles would allow homeowners to make the switch to solar without having to change their aesthetic tastes. Though exact costs have yet to be released, Musk believes the system could be more affordable than a traditional roof.
The world’s first solar panel road has officially opened in a small village in Normandy, France.
Built in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche, the 1 kilometer route, dubbed the “Wattway,” is covered in 2,800 square meters of photovoltaic panels. It is designed to be used by up to 2,000 motorists per day, while providing an average of 767 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day, enough energy to power all of the street lighting in the 3,400-resident village.
Elon Musk has revealed his company Tesla’s latest world-changing innovation: a solar roof system so fully integrated into a home’s architecture as to be indistinguishable from a traditional roof.
Tap a button on your phone and hop into the shower; walk downstairs 15 minutes later, and you have a fresh pot of coffee waiting for you. That’s a ritual that is no longer just a fantasy for many people. The rise of the internet of things has allowed us to control remote appliances with just a tap of the touchscreen. Until now, the scale of these processes has largely been limited to personal devices: anything from brewing a pot of coffee to warming up your car on a frosty morning. But what if we could grow food for thousands of people, with that same tap of a button? That is the goal of Forward Thinking Architecture’s “Smart Floating Farms” project.
Solar energy is considered by many to be the future of electricity worldwide. Cities from Houston to Mumbai are embracing massive rooftop and rural solar infrastructure, a largely standardized system of fixed panels positioned to optimize sun intake at peak times. Only the most sophisticated adjustable panels which track the sun, however, are capable of absorbing the maximum amount of daylight allowed by the technology, meaning that the average immovable panel loses a significant amount of available energy.
Researchers at the University of Michigan sought to develop a solar energy system that could absorb the most daylight possible while reducing the carbon footprint from production of the panels themselves. The results are surprisingly beautiful: through the application of the ancient Japanese art of Kirigami, a variation of Origami, the researchers were able to capture up to 40 percent more sunlight than traditional panels.
Texas and clean energy are hardly considered synonymous. However, as uncovered by a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Texas has emerged as an unexpected leader in solar power, with $1 billion now being invested in solar energy infrastructure with an aim to produce up to 12,500 megawatts of solar electricity by 2029. To mark this important moment in US energy production, the New Jersey Institute of Technology has produced this infographic revealing the benefits (and drawbacks) of solar energy for the average American consumer, including everything from the history of solar energy to incentives available for solar systems nationwide. Read on to view the infographic in full.
Google is in the unique position to truly understand what people want. As millions key in their questions, the search giant is actively working to provide better answers. When it comes to questions about solar energy, Google wondered, “If people are lost trying to get answers about solar, why don’t we give them a map?” And so, the tech company announced the beta launch of Project Sunroof: a tool “to make installing solar panels easy and understandable for anyone.”
In a post on Google’s Green Blog, engineer Carl Elkin addressed common misconceptions about the viability of solar energy for the average owner by saying “many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.” Sunroof hopes to be the answer that gives people clear, easy to understand answers.