Solving Cities

Tallest building in U.S. will add vertical solar farm

Tallest building in U.S. will add vertical solar farm

Posting in Cities

Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is a leader in height, can it also be a leader in solar energy?

Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), North America's tallest building, is already an icon in the city. But it could soon be an icon for solar energy use in cities?

A new project will take advantage of the tower's vertical surface area by adding up to 2 MW of solar glass panels -- equivalent to a 10 acre solar field -- on the south side of the building's 56th floor.

This pilot project will use photovoltaic glass units developed by Pythagoras Solar. From Inhabitat:

The new windows, dubbed high power density photovoltaic glass units (PVGU), are a clever hybrid technology that lays typical monocrystalline silicon solar cell horizontally between two layers of glass to form an individual tile. An internal plastic reflective prism directs angled sunlight onto the solar cells but allows diffuse daylight and horizontal light through. Think of it as a louvered shade which allows for views but cuts out the harsh direct sun.

If the project is successful, it could lead the way to other similar projects in cities. It's a great way for cities to harvest energy without using up precious space in the city or limited rooftop space.

The product is also a potential breakthrough in energy efficiency in glass towers, where solar heat gain is the bane of energy-efficient design.

Photo: Odalaigh/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure