Kennon, an Australian company, has announced plans for a major new project in Melbourne. 550 Spencer, an eight-story office building, will generate more electricity than it requires, thanks to a cutting-edge solar facade made of 1,182 solar panels.
Interestingly, the design of 550 Spencer does not consist of simply placing regular solar panels on the facade. Instead, its solar facade will be made of glass, with 1,182 integrated solar panels gathering energy from the sunlight.
Solar facades are uncommon, though probably not unheard of. According to Kennon, the project will be Australia’s first to include one. The company had to take significant steps to make it happen, enlisting the assistance of the German company Avancis to provide the panels since none were available locally.
“At the time, I had been researching glazing products in operation in Europe that embody photovoltaic cells within a facade glass screen that didn’t look like the typical and ugly solar panels you see on rooftops,” explained studio founder Pete Kennon.
“We started discussions with several manufacturers, soon learning they didn’t have a presence in Australia. We designed a building facade with the product, and I pitched the concept to the client. We partnered with a local glass distributor, George Fethers & Co, and flew the executives of the product out from Germany to meet with us. We mapped the solar performance from different facade alterations optimizing the electricity production.”
Another issue was that the solar facade technology had not earned an Australian building safety certificate. Kennon, undeterred, started about mailing over 40 panels. The firm built a copy of the facade with the assistance of construction fire safety expert Red Fire Engineers and then put it on fire to assess its performance, meticulously documenting the process.
With the confirmation of fire performance, the project moved forward and is currently under construction. When fully operational, the solar facade system will create 142 kWp (kilowatt peak – or how much electricity it produces in perfect conditions, such as a bright sunny day), which compares to about 3 – 6 kWp on a typical solar panel configuration for a house.
According to Kennon, this will be sufficient to produce more electricity than the building requires and eliminate 70 tonnes (78.4 US tons) of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Another benefit is that putting all the solar panels on the facade frees up the rooftop for some garden space for the office workers to enjoy.
We’ll be interested to see how these numbers stack up once the project is completed. On that note, 550 Spencer is scheduled to be completed in 2024.