In 2012, there is no shortage of impressive buildings. Skyscrapers such as the Burj Khalifa reach as far up as half a mile into the clouds, seizing the imagination. But what about buildings that are impressive for a different reason – energy efficiency as opposed to size?
While not technically generating their own power, these buildings are energy-independent from the rest of the grid, or at least closer to energy-independent than many of their neighbors. Instead of sucking power from the pulsating grid, these buildings are harnessing the power of the sun for their own electricity, and some of them seem to do it in a more spectacular way than the other solar-powered buildings in the world.
In other words, some solar-powered buildings are cooler than others. Here are a few around the world that we think you’ll enjoy:
Sanyo’s Solar Ark
Why is it called an Ark? That’s easy to explain. One look at it and you’ll see that it is not only shaped like an ark, but surprisingly self-sufficient similar to the way Noah’s famous Ark was. Located in Gifu, which contains the geological center of Japan, the facility towers 37 meters in the air – but looks fantastic because it’s so wide. The solar panels here collect energy from the sun – some half a million kWh of energy per year – but they also host LED panels that are capable of playing messages to those looking at the building from the outside. So not only is the building a monument to what is possible with solar energy, but it is an attraction in and of itself.
Solar Towers from EnviroMission
Still in the planning stage, it’s hard to resist mentioning the solar towers that are being planned by EnviroMission. The towers themselves are expected to rival the Burj Khalifa for height. These towers aren’t there just for looks, however, they serve the practical purpose of funneling hot air through turbines that are then used to generate power.
The project is expected to cost a lot – as much as three-fourths of a billion dollars – but much of the red tape has already been cleared and EnviroMission has been given the go-ahead for the site.
Also in the building stages, this is an entire city in Arabia. Check out all their plans here.
The World’s Largest Solar-Powered Office Building
Located in China, this office building, a part of China’s Solar Valley, looks more like an opera house than it does an office building, but that’s by design. In fact, the entire office building is uniquely designed. It’s rare that you’ll find this much office space powered by solar energy. But that’s exactly the case for the 246,000 square feet here, much of which is not dedicated to pure office space but to other amenities such as training facilities, research centers, and even a hotel. There are lots of big solar-powered buildings all over the world; this is the largest one where people actually go to work.
Just take a quick glance around the world and you’ll see similar projects to the ones just mentioned popping up – it leaves you wondering just how cool the next generation of solar-powered buildings will become.
Meg Jones works with a company that provides solar financing arrangements for green energies that offer long term benefits for customers and the earth.