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 Power: The Latest Architecture and News
While first developed as a practical power source during the 1950s, solar systems were too expensive for mainstream use until the 1970s. Starting from their early use to power Cold War era military satellites, silicon photovoltaic solar cells achieved their first commercial success in places where electricity was not available, such as lighthouses and off-shore oil rigs.
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.
Renewable energy experts from the University of Exeter in England have developed a glass block with built-in solar cells. The idea is that with the spread of technology, it is possible to build a house or a whole building's facade using blocks that generate energy.
The product has been named Solar Squared, tests done at the university have shown that they guarantee thermal insulation and allow natural light to enter the building.
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.
Peddle Thorp Architects have submitted their proposal for the Moray Street Residential Tower in Melbourne for approval. At 1173.5 square meters, Sol Invictus is wrapped entirely in solar panels, attaining 10 times more solar surface area than a traditional roof covering. The facade can achieve up to 5000 square meters of solar panel array and is connected to a battery storage system.
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.
A new technology developed by researchers at Ohio State University has the potential to increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of generating and storing the sun's energy. Led by professor of chemistry and biochemistry Yiying Wu, the team has created a combined solar cell and lithium storage battery with an efficiency of electron transfer between the two components of almost 100%, in a design which they believe will reduce costs by up to 25%.
“The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” Wu said. “We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.”
Read on after the break for more on the news
The Mapdwell Project is a collaborative effort of researchers, academics, and professionals from MIT from a range of fields - design, building technology, engineering, environmental sciences, finance, and computer sciences - to develop a community resource of research-driven and tested information of sustainable practices.
The fundamental goal of Mapdwell is to deliver a tool that enables communities to make informed decisions about how to incorporate sustainable practices into their lifestyles through community awareness, and access to information about energy efficiency and smart development.
More details on this tool after the break.