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Electrifying architecture

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Hi-tech batteries enable a German tower block not only to store solar energy but redistribute it across a wider network

Construction of the Smart Green Tower is due to begin this spring/summer.
Construction of the Smart Green Tower is due to begin this spring/summer.

A 16-story tower block in Germany looks set to push the boundaries of solar power generation by using a high capacity battery to store and intelligently distribute energy to an entire neighbourhood.

The 15,000m2 (gross floor area) Smart Green Tower in Freiburg is designed by German practice Frey Architekten, in partnership with Siemens and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems. It will feature commercial office and residential space, with construction planned for the second quarter of 2017.

The roof and most of the facade will be covered with high efficiency building integrated photovoltaic panels, optimised for low light conditions and able to generate more than enough power to run the building.

Power will be channelled into a 0.5MWh lithium-ion battery, thought to be the highest capacity battery ever installed in a building, ‘enhanced’ by vanadium redox flow batteries able to redirect energy to other buildings in the district.

  • The Smart Green Tower's roof and most of the facade will be covered with high efficiency photovoltaic panels, shown mocked up here.
    The Smart Green Tower's roof and most of the facade will be covered with high efficiency photovoltaic panels, shown mocked up here.
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High capacity batteries have been suggested as the solution to the problem of intermittent solar power availability, by using energy harvested during the day to provide power during peak demand in the evening. Car manufacturer Tesla launched its 14kWh capacity home energy storage battery, Powerwall 2, in October.

The Smart Green Tower project goes one step further by using batteries to intelligently manage power distribution to and from a wider network, with the option to connect to new local energy producers. The plan is to integrate it into Freiburg’s commercial Green Industry Park, currently in the process of being remodelled.

Power will be channelled into a 0.5MWh lithium-ion battery, thought to be the highest capacity battery ever installed in a building

A spokesperson for Frey Architekten says: ‘Our hybrid battery system will be optimised using smart controls to apply the ideal system for particular use cases. That might be energy storage, peak shaving, grid balancing and energy supply for an entire district of a city. All these features will be executed for the first time in tower.’

The system will use direct current (DC) to transmit and distribute electricity throughout the building more efficiently than standard alternating current (AC). The facade and roof will combine a variety of solar modules, including crystalline, thin film and organic types, as part of a concept to ‘electrify architecture’.


 

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