Posts tagged with "Photovoltaic Panels":

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EPFL puts new high-efficiency rooftop solar panels to the test

While solar panels have become increasingly common, the ones usually found on rooftops and the like can convert at most between 17 and 19 percent of received solar energy to usable electricity. This average yield has plateaued, increasingly only about 3.5 percent since the 2000s. More efficient panels are available, like those used on satellites, but they remain cost prohibitive. Insolight, a Swiss startup from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), claims to have developed a scalable alternative, however. The company's new technology uses the same high-efficiency cells found in orbiting satellites but assembled in such a way that minimizes cost differences. Insolight's Mathieu Ackermann, Laurent Coulot, and Florian Gerlich have constructed arrays of very small versions of these high-efficiency cells, mounted with an optical magnifier that concentrates sunlight around 100 times, resulting in cells that take up less than .5 percent of the panel’s surface area but harvest a much larger percentage of the light hitting the panel. Most concentrator-operated solar systems require constant maneuvering to be tilted towards the sun. In order to maximize efficiency without requiring new mounting technology or complicated tilting mechanics, each of the cells is detailed so that it can make tiny, millimeter-level movements to position itself to track the sun without all the cost, space, and reliability issues found in many already available concentrator systems. Insolight's “microtracking” can reportedly capture 100 percent of the light that hits it, regardless of its angle of incidence. The ultra-thin panels can be mounted similarly to any traditional photovoltaic cell, even in a hybrid array layered with standard panels, which is especially useful for cloudy days. The panels spent a year on the roofs of an EPFL pilot site and worked “without a hitch,” according to the trio. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, Insolight projects that the panels could cut electricity bills by as much as 30 percent, as well as provide a greater return on investment than other commercially-available solar options. The company hopes to bring its first products to the market in 2022. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit techplusexpo.com/nyc/.
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Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs stays bright with the largest photovoltaic skylight in the U.S.

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The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex, completed by Eero Saarinen in 1962, is a sprawling former research building clad in reflective glass and topped with a quarter-mile-long roof. After approximately a decade of real estate juggling, the property was purchased by New Jersey's Somerset Development in 2013, which began an extensive renovation of the property, including the replacement of the roof with the largest photovoltaic glass skylight in the United States. In December 2018, The Architect's Newspaper took a private tour of the renowned mid-century research lab with Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker. Much of the interior is still under a painstaking conversion designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects into contemporary tech-focused office space.
  • Facade Manufacturer Onyx Solar
  • Facade Installer Elite Industrial & Commercial Roofing
  • Facade Consultants Somerset Development
  • Location Holmdel, New Jersey
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Custom-fit and installed glass panels over existing frame
  • Products Onyx Solar Building-Integrated Photo-Voltaics
The atrium skylight consists of 3,200 panes of glass subjected to 24 different glazings and assembled in a series of ridges. Replacing the windows was fairly straightforward; the original glass was removed, then the existing frames were cleaned and then fitted with advanced weather strips to seal the building-integrated photovoltaics. However, the sheer scale of the project and its historic importance required unique approaches to the installation of the glass panels. The installation team had to carefully install the right glazing in the correct bay and row. “To mitigate this risk, we created a model of each of the three sky roofs and identified every glazing and the position of the glazing with each bay and row of the sky roof,” said Bell Works Chief Energy Officer/Chief Technology Officer Joel Shandelman. "This model ensured we had the exact number of each glazing and the respective permanent position of the skyroof.” The panels are composed of a central silicon film of photovoltaic glass laminated on both sides by tempered safety glass—providing the added benefit of reducing solar heat gain with a 20 percent visual light transmittance. In total, the approximately 60,000 square-foot glass installation annually generates nearly 90,000 kilowatt hours. In June 2017, after the skylight installation, the complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
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Swiss researchers enlist the help of robots to build high-tech showhome

ETH Zürich’s high-tech showhome opened its doors this past week. The three-story DFAB HOUSE has been built on the NEST modular building platform, an Empa– and Eawag–led site of cutting-edge research and experimentation in architecture, engineering, and construction located in Dübendorf, Switzerland. The 2,150-square-foot house, a collaboration with university researchers and industry leaders, is designed to showcase robotics, 3-D printing, computational modeling, and other technologies and grapple with the interconnected issues of ecology, economy, and architecture. One of the central innovations is using robots that build onsite, rather than create prefabricated pieces in a factory. This In Situ Fabricator (IF) technology, an autonomous “context-aware mobile construction robot,” helps minimize waste and maximize safety during the construction process. To generate concrete geometries not permitted by conventional construction techniques, such as curvilinear shapes that minimize material use, researchers devised a Mesh Mould technology that was built with the aid of vision system–equipped robots. The robots fabricated a structure that acts as both formwork and structural support, a curved steel rebar mesh. The mesh is then filled with concrete, which it acts as a support to. In the DFAB HOUSE, the Mesh Mould is realized as a 39-foot wall, a main load-bearing component of the house, which is able to carry around 100 tons. Despite its complexity—it has 335 layers with over 20,000 welding points—the robot took just 125 hours to construct the mesh. https://youtu.be/ZeLEeY8yK2Y Cantilevered over the Mesh Mould is the so-called Smart Slab, a 3-D printed concrete formwork that supports the timber structure above. Many of the concrete forms in the home are built with what the researchers are calling Smart Dynamic Casting, an automated prefabrication technology. Robotic prefabrication is also used to make the Spatial Timber Assemblies that comprise the upper two levels of the home. The timber structure was devised as part of a collaboration between the university, Gramazio Kohler Research, and ERNE AG Holzbau, who used computational design to generate timber arrangements to fit into the larger structure. The timber assemblies also permit the creation of stiff structures that don’t require additional reinforcement. Applied onto the structure, the hyper-efficient facade is made of membranes of cables, translucent insulating Aerogel, and aluminum. In addition to all the new technology that went into building the DFAB HOUSE, it will also be a “smart home,” using what the researchers are calling the “digitalSTROM platform,” which includes “intelligent, multi-stage burglar protection, automated glare, and shading options, and the latest generation of networked, intelligent household appliances.” It also includes voice control for many of the home’s operations from turning on a kettle to operating blinds. Energy management is also a centerpiece of the home, with rooftop photovoltaic panels featuring a smart control system. Additionally, heat exchangers in the shower trays recover the warmth of shower water, and hot water from faucets is fed back into the boiler when it’s not in use. Not only does it conserve energy and water,  it also prevents bacterial growth in the pipes. The radical use of technology in the DFAB HOUSE is also about optimization and efficiency: the home, with all its undulating formwork and translucent geometries, has been designed to demonstrate how new technology can develop and advance its own aesthetic language to make truly pleasing, compelling spaces. It will also be put to the test. Soon academic guests will be moving in and give life in the DFAB HOUSE a shot. For those who can’t make it to Switzerland, the project will also be presented during Swissnex in San Francisco.
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C. F. Møller Architects wrapped this Danish school with thousands of solar panels

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Solar panels are increasingly ubiquitous across a broad range of recent and ongoing projects. For the most part, this technology is applied along rooflines or as standalone installations supplying the energy demands of an adjacent complex. Completed in 2017, C.F. Møller’s Copenhagen International School bucks this trend with a facade composed of thousands of solar panels. The Copenhagen International School is located in the city’s fast-growing Nordhavn district, a significant harbor area undergoing a range of mixed-use development. The school, surrounded by looming cranes and shipping containers, is not out of place with its box-like massing.
  • Facade Manufacturer SolarLab
  • Architects C.F. Møller Architects
  • Facade Installer Per Aarselff A/S, Eiler Thomsen Alufacader A/S
  • Facade Consultants Niras A/S
  • Location Nordhavn, Copenhagen
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System Concrete structural system with photovoltaic rainscreen
  • Products SolarLab custom-designed photovoltaic panels
According to the architects, the overall focus of the new masterplan for the district emphasized the use of sustainable energy embedded in a newly built network of roads, commuter stations, bike paths, and pedestrian paths. After testing the practicality of water and wind energy, solar energy was chosen as the most suitable for the school's needs. Rising from a ground flour base, the school building is divided into four educational towers ranging in height from five to seven stories. The facade of this unique arrangement is composed of over 12,000 custom-designed photovoltaic panels produced by Danish manufacturer SolarLab. The panels, which additionally function as a rain screen cladding, are all colored the same shade of blue-green. Each panel is slightly angled and treated with a nanogel to add a layer of dynamism to what would otherwise be a static facade format, which gives the effect of different colors and shading due to shifting environmental conditions. Each panel is approximately 2.5 square feet in area, and are mechanically held in place by a system of glass rails and aluminum cassettes, pitching each panel at an angle of 4° in relation to the facade. In total, the panels have a surface area of just over 65,000 square feet. For the most part, the panels are formed of 16 solar cells linked by tinned copper threads. The facade is split into eight-panel modules, each connected to independent inverters suspended under the ceiling throughout the building, converting the solar energy into an alternating current of 230 Volts. In total, the panels are estimated to produce 300 MWh per year, fulfilling 50% of the school's energy requirements. In 2017, the project was awarded Germany's Iconic Award, noting the school's innovative facade cladding, and C. F. Møller is currently designing a trio of floating classrooms adjacent to the Copenhagen International School.
   
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Maldives resort makes solar panels stylish for a luxury private island

Hot on the heels of the world's first underwater resort opening in the Maldives, an upscale hotel has opened a building with a distinctive solar panel roof on a private island in the Indian Ocean archipelago. New York's Yuji Yamazaki Architecture (YYA), which also created the submarine building, designed the new destination, known as the Kudadoo Maldives Private Island. The architects claim that the 320-kilowatt-peak (kWp) capacity of the roof system is enough to power the entire resort and that the system will recoup its cost after five years of use. Other design touches, like gaps between the panels to allow filtered interior daylighting and an extensive canopy overhang for shading, aim to minimize power use. The Maldives, a low-lying collection of atolls in the middle of the ocean, are exceptionally sensitive to climate change and any subsequent sea-level rise. Some studies estimate that islands like the Maldives may be uninhabitable by the middle of the century as rising sea levels flood aquifers, damage infrastructure, and submerge livable space. This makes the use sustainable power sources like solar panels particularly salient for the area. YYA chose to celebrate the panels on the roof rather than minimizing them or trying to camouflage them among other materials. Visitors will primarily approach the resort by plane, and the panels will be one of the first things they see. Of course, rooms at the private island don't come cheap. A recent search showed rooms starting at $2400 a night.
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California could require all new homes to install solar panels

On Wednesday May 9, the California Energy Commission will vote on whether or not to require solar panels on new homes. The standard is expected to pass and would apply to all single and multi-family homes up to three stories tall as of January 2020. Exceptions will be made for shaded structures or in situations where it is impractical to install panels and offsets can be used for other solutions, such as re-charging batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall. Homes will not have to reach net-zero status (that is, relying completely on the solar panels for all energy), but is still expected to San Francisco already requires solar panels on all new buildings under 10 stories tall—statewide about 15 to 20 percent of new single family homes rely on solar energy. As California is the world’s fifth largest economy, the massive sales-boost that would result in this measure should not only lower the cost of solar panels in the state, but across the U.S. Installing solar panels will make it approximately $25,000 to $30,000 more expensive to build homes than those built under the 2006 code. However, homeowners are expected to save $50,000 to $60,000 over 25 years. While some have pointed out that this could make California’s housing shortage situation even more dire by raising housing costs, the energy–saving benefits (and California’s increasingly wealthy population) may outnumber the naysayers. This is the most recent of California’s sustainability measures as it continues to push toward a more environmentally friendly future, including filing a lawsuit against the EPA from lowering vehicle emission standards.
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Solar panels get a much-needed design makeover

Let’s face it: no one has ever characterized a solar panel as being particularly attractive. In fact, they’re eyesores. While the environmental and business cases for photovoltaics are relatively easy to make, their aesthetic dimension has long been a losing proposition. “In states like California, solar is half the price of the local utility, even without subsidies,” explained Ido Salama, co-founder of Sistine Solar. “At the same time, it feels like all solar products look the same: they come in either black or blue, and, while solar panels work great, many people would describe them as ugly. At the very least, they look out of place on a roof,” he added. Rather than attempting to convince people to appreciate solar for what it is, Salama and company set out to build a solar panel that appeals to their sense of aesthetics instead. To that end, Sistine Solar introduced its SolarSkin technology—described on the company’s website as “solar with curb appeal”—in 2013 when its developers won the renewables track of the MIT Clean Energy Prize. Since launching SolarSkin, the company recently introduced its online Design Studio platform to allow anyone to design, customize, and price a solar installation.

How it works

Developed by MIT engineers, SolarSkin is a thin film specially coated with ultra-durable graphics and integrated onto high-efficiency solar panels. The technology employs selective light filtration to simultaneously display an image and transmit sunlight to the underlying solar cells with minimal loss in efficiency. The product is available in any number of colors and patterns, is compatible with every major panel manufacturer, and is available for both new and existing roofs. The end result is essentially a kind of camouflage for the typically drab photovoltaic panel. Sistine Solar’s new SolarSkin Design Studio is an online tool that allows architects, designers, and homeowners alike to design and order a customized solar system from a desktop computer or mobile phone. With a $99 refundable deposit, end users will receive a preliminary system design using LIDAR mapping, a detailed panel layout, guaranteed production figures, a realistic rendering, (where suitable image is available), and guaranteed delivery within 90 days. The Design Studio is intended to get customers more excited about solar, according to Salama. “Homeowners appreciate the transparency, customizability, and especially the ability to match their solar panels to their roof,” he said. “Architects and designers love it because for the first time, they have a product that allows them to showcase solar in a way never before possible—integrated, congruent, harmonious." In spite of the improvement to aesthetics, however, solar technology still faces a number of challenges in terms of market transformation. “Soft costs is one barrier,” he said. “Solar is so complex because every municipality has different rules when it comes to permitting solar.” Noting that it may take one to three days to physically install and wire up a solar system, Salama points out that it can take up to three months to get a permit. “If soft costs could be reduced—like streamlining the permitting process—we would see a radical transformation in adoption,” he suggested. Of course, affordable storage is an ongoing issue with solar technology. “When solar and storage become more economical than buying from the local utility, we will see a huge shift towards distributed generation and plenty of homeowners cutting the cord,” Salama predicted. Now that solar panels are eligible for a makeover, however, there’s one less hurdle to overcome—making the future of solar technology a little more attractive.  
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Steven Holl Architects’ colored photovoltaic glass design wins Doctors Without Borders competition

Steven Holl Architects, in collaboration with Rüssli Architekten, has been selected by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) to design the organization’s new Geneva Operational Center. The winning proposal’s playful design was selected unanimously over international proposals from Pool Architekten & Mak Architecture, Sauerbruch Hutton, Emilio Tuñon Arquitectos and Ruckstuhl Architekten, Blue Architects, and Consortium Sou Foujimoto with The New Talent Workshop. Broken up into several distinct cubic volumes and clad in a boldly colored photovoltaic glass curtain-wall facade, the building has been nicknamed “Colors of Humanity.” Much more than a decorative element, the glass is composed of 40-percent-transparent solar cells. By changing the color and permeability of the glass across the Operational Center, the facade can shade, cool and power the building all at once while still allowing operable windows. When combined with the more efficient photovoltaic panels nestled within the roof garden, and the Geneva district Genilac lake water loop, 72 percent of the building’s electricity will be self-produced. Providing workstations, meeting rooms, classrooms, and social spaces for over 250 Doctors Without Borders employees, the design also offers an inherently flexible approach to programming. By overlaying criss-crossing passages throughout the interior with seated alcoves and meeting spaces, the firm set out to spur spontaneous conversation and collaboration among the many different types of staff. “These centers serve as a friendly catalyst for interaction, acting like social condensers within the building,” Steven Holl Architects explained. Providing support for more than 6,300 employees across 23 countries, the Center will house several other international project teams such as the “International Office,” the international secretariat, which includes activities related to the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, and various pilot projects. Keeping the diversity of the organization’s work in mind, the Center’s form and photovoltaic systems were designed with the possibility of expansion in the future. “Steven Holl Architects’ project is the opportunity for MSF to integrate its core values like independence, impartiality, neutrality, altruism and dynamism in a challenging new architecture and project itself in the future," said Mathieu Soupart, Logistics Director for the Geneva Operational Center, in a prepared statement. With an expected start date of spring 2019, the Geneva Operational Center will neighbor the Higher International Studies and Development, designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates, and the Terra and Casa Foundation expatriate housing by Bonnard Woeffray Architectes.
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IKEA now sells solar panels and home battery packs

IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant known for selling cheap, do-it-yourself furniture, is now offering solar energy systems (only these products aren't quite cheap and definitely aren't D.I.Y.).

IKEA has partnered with energy technology company Solarcentury to launch its Solar Battery Storage Solution, which features solar panels and home batteries, in the U.K. Solarcentury, one of the U.K.’s biggest solar panel providers, will produce the panels.

IKEA’s home storage battery works in the same way as Tesla’s Powerwall, storing energy generated from the solar panels instead of selling excess energy back to the grid. The home batteries are compatible with existing solar panels or as a part of a combined storage system.

There is a bit of a sticker shock for those used to IKEA’s affordable prices—the upfront cost for both panels and battery is £6,925 (about $9,034 in U.S. dollars)—but the company estimates customers will make their money back within 12 years and their electricity bills will be cut by up to 70 percent. 

Solar panels and home battery systems have been making big waves thanks to Tesla's recently-announced offering. While still expensive, IKEA's solar system has an advantage in that its starting price is much lower. Just the batteries will cost £3,000 (around $3,900) as opposed to Tesla's price of £5,900 (about $7,684). However, location, type of building, and size of roof, also affect the final cost.

“We believe IKEA and Solarcentury are bringing the most competitive package to the market yet so more people than ever before can profit financially and environmentally by producing their own energy,” Susannah Wood, head of residential solar at Solarcentury, said in a press release.

This news comes on the heels of two big announcements for the U.K.’s energy industry. Just last week, the U.K. government unveiled a plan that will allot £246m of funding (that's around $320.48 million) for battery technology research. British gas owner Centrica also revealed that it would be increasing its energy prices 12.5 percent, despite promises to lower costs.

If you live in the U.K., IKEA’s website offers a free estimate on how much installing its Solar Battery Solution will save you.

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Tesla’s solar roof will cost less than normal roofs

While the oil companies struggle to maintain their environmentally disastrous stranglehold on the market and the planet, there are some very realistic technologies that threaten to disrupt the status quo. One of the most dangerous for the oil companies is the Tesla solar roof, an off-the-shelf consumer system of tempered glass tiles. Last week, Tesla began accepting orders for the product and released pricing, which is comparable to normal asphalt roofing. The system is a mix of active solar tiles and inactive simple glass tiles, and as the percentage varies, so does the eventual cost. A 35 percent mix would cost $21.85 per square foot, and according to Consumer Reports, the tiles need to be under $24.50 per square foot to compete with normal tiles. That math doesn't even take into account the energy savings over time, which should allow the tiles to pay for themselves. Tesla released a savings calculator when they announced sales, and they are also offering a lifetime warranty. “We offer the best warranty in the industry—the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” a Tesla rep told Inverse. https://www.instagram.com/p/BT7HVS3AZ4q/
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Indiana moves to revoke consumer solar energy incentives

Ironically coinciding with an announcement that Chicago plans to utilize more renewable energy, a bill has passed the Indiana legislature eliminating much of the financial incentive for individuals to install solar panels. The bill was pushed by Indiana’s investor-owned utility companies, who fear the growing popularity of the solar industry. Solar energy only accounts for less than 1% of the state’s power, but quickly falling solar panel prices—paired with their increased efficiency—is leading to their growing popularity. The bill is now in the hands of Governor Eric Holcomb. Currently, the state has four main solar energy incentives: a net metering program, the Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption, the Indiana Sales Tax Incentive for Electrical Generating Equipment, and the Indiana Income Tax Deduction for Solar-Powered Roof Vents or Fans. The bill is specifically targeted at the net metering program. Energy customers that participate in net metering receive credit on their energy bills for the solar energy that they produce but do not consume. The bill would limit the rate at which credits are issued for net metering. Everyone who installed solar panels before 2018 would continue to receive credits at the current rate for the next 30 years. Those who install panels before 2018 and 2022 would only be able to collect until 2032. The 11 cents per kilowatt/hour credit would also be reduced to 3 cents per kilowatt/hour. Some are saying that the bill is unnecessary tough because the net metering program will only be in effect until over 1% of the state's energy comes from alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar. Others believe that the bill is directly aimed at encouraging consumers to buy into community solar programs, which the utility companies own. Community solar programs work by leasing solar panels, which are part of larger solar arrays, to consumers. This allows customers to use solar energy without having panels on their own roof, but it also keeps the utility companies in control of energy production. The bill was introduced by State Senator Brandt Hershman. The Senate voted 37-11 to pass the bill with changes made by the House.
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Tesla reveals slender solar panels that appear to float on roofs

On Monday, Tesla became the most valuable car company in America. The day before, the Californian company headed by Elon Musk unveiled a new "streamline" solar panel to continue its foray into the green energy market. The slender panels are designed to be aesthetically innocuous and attract customers who would otherwise be put off by shingles or a large blue grid. To achieve the look, invisible mounting hardware and front array skirts allow the panels to appear to float upon the roof. “I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy," said Musk in Electrek. Japanese tech giant Panasonic will manufacture the panels at their "Gigafactory 2" in Buffalo, New York. As part of a deal with Tesla, Musk's firm will be the only company allowed to use and sell the panels produced there. Tesla and Panasonic have an already established business partnership after the two worked together to produce batteries for Tesla's electric cars. As for the panels, the well-disguised mounting system was originally developed by fellow Californian firm, Zep Solar. That company, however, was bought out by SolarCity who they themselves were purchased by Tesla. As reported by Techcrunch, Zep co-founder Daniel Flanigan has taken the role of Senior Director of Solar Systems Product Design in Tesla's engineering department. If you want an even more discreet solar panel, look, Tesla does that too. Solar panel shingles with textured glass span the whole roof, and like the new panels revealed last week, work with Tesla's Powerwall battery to power homes "with a completely sustainable energy system."