Possibly the most ambitious example of building-integrated PV (BIPV) to date is at the heart of the Ruhr in Germany at Herne-Sodingen. The Mount Cenis Government Training Centre, for a time the world's most powerful solar electric plant is a spectacular demonstration of the country's commitment to rehabilitate this former industrial region whilst also signalling the country's commitment to ecological development (see Fig. 15.3).
After the demise of heavy industry the Ruhr became a heavily polluted wasteland which prompted the government of North-Rhine Westphalia to embark on an extensive regeneration programme covering 800 square kilometres.
The building is, in effect, a giant canopy encompassing a variety of buildings and providing them with the climate of the Mediterranean. At 168 m long and 16 m high, the form and scale of the building has echoes of the huge manufacturing sheds of former times. A timber structural frame of rough-hewn pine columns is a kind of reincarnation of the forests from which they originated.
The structure encloses two three-storey buildings either side of an internal street running the length of the building (see Fig. 15.4).
The concrete structure provides substantial thermal mass, balancing out both diurnal and seasonal temperature fluctuations. Landscaped spaces provide social areas which can be used all year in a climate akin to the Cote d'Azur. Sections of the façade can be opened in summer to provide cross ventilation.
The building is designed to be self-sufficient in energy. The roof and façade incorporate 10,000 m2 of PV cells integrated with glazed panels. Two types of solar module were employed: monocrystalline cells with a peak efficiency of 16% and lower-density polycrystalline cells at 12.5%. These provide a peak output of one megawatt. Six hundred converters change the current from DC to AC to make it compatible with the grid. A 1.2 MW battery plant stores power from the PVs, balancing output fluctuations. The power generated greatly exceeds the needs of the building at 750,000 kWh per year. German policy on renewables makes exporting to the grid a profitable proposition.
This is not the only source of energy generation. The former mines in the area release more than one million cubic metres of methane, which is used to provide both heat and power. Capturing the gas in this way results in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of 12,000 tonnes.
This complex is an outstanding example of an alliance between green technology and aesthetics. The architects, Jourda and Perraudin of Paris, designed the distribution of PV panels to reflect the arbitrary distribution of clouds by means of six different types of module with different densities, creating subtle variations to the play of light within the interior. It all adds up to an enchanting environment of spaciousness, light and shade. At the same time it affords a graphic reminder that regenerated industrial landscapes do not have to be populated by featureless utilitarian sheds.
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