It’s about time a company figured out a way to make use of the immense square-footage available on the surface of a skyscraper, let alone the fifth largest freestanding skyscraper in the world! Pythagoras Solar, an alternative energy start-up, has struck a novel deal with the owners of the Chicago’s Willis Tower
—formerly the Sears Tower
. Pythagoras plans to cover the skyscraper’s south-facing side with solar panels to create a vertical 2 MW solar farm.
The Willis Tower has 108 stories, and during the summer, solar glare and building cooling costs have become a problem. The solution: solar panels that offset the skyscraper’s energy needs while providing window shade.
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Pythagoras Solar’s window pane solar panel design—called high-density photovoltaic glass units (HD-PVGUs)—acts as slat blinds, blocking some sunlight from entering the building but still providing a view of the city below. The glass panes contain thin layers of monocrystalline silicone pressed between glass sheets. Internal plastic prisms direct angled sunlight while allowing diffused sunlight and indirect reflected sunlight into the building, resolving intense summer glare issues while harnessing the sun’s natural energy.
The Willis (Sears) Tower solar farm is expected to provide as much power as a 10-acre ground installation. If the project—still in the planning phase—is a success, it could set a precedent for using skyscrapers all over the world for solar energy generation. This is such a smart and novel way of using space and saving acres of land for conservation purposes or other development ventures.