Workers install a SIP, which is a preconstructed insulated wall panel.
Before our beloved Solar 1 was modified with more desks and air conditioning, it was deemed a ‘Net- Zero’ building, which means that it provided, on average, all of its own energy. But as mentioned in an earlier post, creating energy is not the only way of being ‘Net Zero’. A building must also use energy wisely in order to lower its energy demand in the first place, and Solar 1 does just that! In this post and the next few, we’ll be discussing the technologies that Solar 1 utilizes in order to reduce its energy use and be a great role model for green-energy buildings yet to come.
Do you know what part of a building keeps cold air out in the winter but contained during the summer? Insulation! Insulation prevents the outside weather from affecting the indoor temperature. We don’t want to have ice cold January temperatures affecting us when we are inside, do we? This detail becomes important when dealing with heating and cooling, which are very energy intensive and costly. In order to minimize the energy used when heating and cooling, Solar 1 utilizes Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). What are SIPs? SIPs are high performance panels that consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings- just think of an ice cream sandwich where the ice cream is the foam and the cookies are the walls. SIPs work well because the wall endows a high R-value, which measures a material’s thermal resistance. A wall with a high R-value creates a strong barrier from the changing outside temperature. SIPs are also pre-fabricated and make construction fast and easy.
Even more interestingly, Solar 1 used these SIPs in a unique way because its assembly at Stuyvesant Cove Park was the first time in construction history that photovoltaic panels were, according to the work report, “laminated directly to the Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), allowing a habitable power-generation structure to be erected with unprecedented speed and ease.” In layman’s terms, the solar panels were directly attached to the SIPs during construction—not after, which makes the installation process cheaper.
Overall, Solar 1’s use of SIPs turned out to be more energy efficient and less time intensive than traditional insulation found in ordinary buildings. By taking this small step, Solar 1 became a leader in guiding a new direction for green construction.
Catch us next week for another post about the terrific technologies in Solar 1 that helps keep water where it belongs! Stay tuned.
Did you know that–in one way or another–all of the energy that we use (except nuclear) ultimately comes from the sun? Solar, wind, carbon-based, and hydro all depend on the sun’s light, heat and energy. Therefore, we are always looking for the best ways to convert the sun’s rays into usable energy. One exciting way is to convert the sun’s rays directly into electricity—and that’s exactly what Solar 1 does.
To capture the sun’s energy, Solar 1 is equipped with 3.5 kW of south facing photovoltaic panels (photo meaning light, and voltaic meaning electricity). But these panels aren’t just thrown on the roof. Instead, Solar1 uses a technique called Passive Solar Design to work with the panels. The roof is angled very specifically to help maximize the gathered energy from the sun. The building is also oriented to maximize its natural heat intake during the winter and minimize its heat intake during the summer. But how do we do that?
First, you’ll notice that the building has a 40 degree angled roof toward the south. This important because when the Earth makes its daily rotation, the sun provides most direct sunlight on the south side since we are north of the equator. The overhang of the roof creates an awning to the south windows to block direct mid-day summer sun while also increasing solar array exposure –win win! Then, when the sun is lower in the sky during the winter, it shines light through the low windows while also heating up the building naturally. These design techniques help the building use less lighting, heating and cooling while also maximizing energy gain from the PVs.
The electricity from the panels goes to an array of lead-acid deep cycle batteries that store charge for consistent voltage.These are the types of batteries that would be used on a boat or RV. It is recommended to avoid running devices directly off of PV panels, and using batteries as an intermediary since the sun can dip behind coulds. The battery array can store charge to be used in the morning or evening, and on cloudy days.
Although all these solar arrays and design techniques once made the building ‘Net-Zero’, the building is now packed with staff and is unfortunately no longer ‘Net-Zero’ because of the extra electricity usage. Nevertheless, one can be happy to know that a great percentage of the electricity used for the building and Solar One events come from the solar panels and are 100% natural energy from the sun.
Next week, we will be talking about the structural components of Solar 1 and how its construction was some of the first of its kind. Stay tuned!
You may have attended an event at Solar One, or jogged by through the park. You may have even noticed the solar panels on the roof, but what makes that little building so special? Solar 1- the building- is a 600 square foot structure north of Stuyvesant Cove Park at 23rd street and was a ‘Net-Zero’ prototype project by architecture firm Kiss + Cathcart that was created for Earth Day way back in 2000.
Wait a minute, ‘what’s Net- Zero’ you may be asking? Simply put, Net-Zero is a term used to describe when a building creates as much or more energy than it consumes. There are two sides to this: using energy effectively and creating energy within the building–Solar 1 does both! Although small in size, Solar 1 has many features that make it Net-Zero (or at least, used to, but more on that later).
Solar 1’s energy saving technologies were cutting edge 12 years ago and they are fortunately more commonplace now. Some of these technologies include Photo Voltaic panels, a Heat Recovery system, SIPs, and low flow fixtures. In the next few weeks, we will investigate these technologies a little further to understand how this truly makes Solar 1 spectacular while also helping you learn more about its influence as a prototype for more efficient construction in recent years. In the meantime, keep an eye out next week for a post about Solar 1’s solar panels and the surprising design details you don’t want to miss.