Gallery: SOLAR ARK: World’s Most Stunning Solar Building


Sanyo has built an ark for the solar century – an impressive 630 kW solar-collecting building that boasts over 5,000 solar panels and kicks off over 500,000 kWh of energy per year. Even more outstanding is the fact that most of the monocrystalline modules used on the Solar Ark were factory rejects headed to the scrap pile. Located next to Sanyo’s semiconductor factory in Gifu, Japan, the Solar Ark stands as one of the best examples of building integrated PV design to date.

The strange thing is that the Solar Ark was born out of a big mistake. Several years ago Sanyo announced an ambitious undertaking. The company wanted to make the largest PV system in the world, a 3.4 MW installation to mark its 50th anniversary. They would use their very best technology, a hybrid system of crystal silicon and thin-film amorphous silicon with 14-15% efficiency. But the plans were side railed by Sanyo’s monocrystalline cell scandal – a recall on these predecessors of the hybrid technology due to insufficient output.

So what to do with thousands of substandard recalls? The company decided to build its solar monument but opted to use the recalled technology. That is how the Solar Ark as we know it today came to be. On the Solar Ark website, Sanyo says “we have done this to show our sincere regret that this problem has occurred and to express our willingness and determination to both remember what happened and how important it is to maintain quality.”

And the building, with all its recalled monocrystalline cells, is out there for everyone to see in full view off the high-speed JR Tokaido bullet train which runs by regularly. Traingoers might even glimpse the more than 75,000 red, green and blue computer-controlled LEDs lit up between the PV panels of The Solar Ark’s 315 meter (1033 foot) long façade in various images and characters. Visitors to the Solar Ark will find a solar museum inside with multi-media exhibits, a solar lab and rooms for solar or environmental events.

From scrap pile to stunning example – Solar Ark is the architectural equivalent of turning lemons into lemonade.

+ Solar Ark by Sanyo

Via Ecoble via Metaefficient via PHOTON


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  2. No B.S. September 19, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Bravo ! I\\\’m not any kind of an expert on solar power. What truly impresses me though is this companys integrity. To have the humility and guts to make this huge symbolic apology (which you can bet cost a lot of $$$$$$$) is truly outstanding in todays world and serves as a wonderful example to all corporations of the responsibility to customers that all businesses should have. They screwed up, admitted it, apologized for all the world to see, and promised to try harder so this would never happen again. Bravo Sanyo. Well done.

  3. nightpie July 24, 2008 at 9:56 am

    From looking at the pictures, it would seem Sanyo is much more interested in creating a billboard instead of generating energy. The solar panels appear far too vertical to be at the ideal angle for catching the sun\’s direct rays. Panels placed vertically on the south side of buildings (in the northern hemisphere) see a reduction in their capacity of 20-30%. It looks like a similar reduction might be appropriate for the ark. This says nothing of the fact that the entire \”building\” may not be sited correctly to face south. Even if it is, only one side can face south meaning the opposite side\’s generation will be significantly limited.

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  6. Lakshminarayanan February 13, 2008 at 9:09 am

    wow……. great thinking
    it is definitely converting lemon into lemonade

  7. kctx January 22, 2008 at 6:04 am

    The sign’s in English. hmm. Nice lines but the thing could be more functional.

  8. Andy January 20, 2008 at 1:58 am

    What a complete and utter eyesore.

  9. bob roberts January 17, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    i swear this thing looks like the oscar-meyer wiener mobile

  10. Stephen January 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm


    It to bad that the U.S. Goverment and the big companies and oil companies do not have for sight long term vision. Because the only thing they see is how they can screw americans and so many other courtries, and take more of their money and put it in our pockets.
    But to all of us who keep trying to make new things and finding solution for the future, but as we seen if the goverment or big companies do not get their cut of the pie.
    then they spend large bucks to stomp it out. Or tell us via media it cost to much that’s the big lie the general publie suck up and believe.because the guy you watch on TV are just prety/hansome dummies reading from the monitor or and ear piece sound like the President of the USA


  11. sinbad January 16, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I personally am quite impressed by the “building.” Whatever you want to title it, doesn’t matter, I think they have put the product to good use. If anything, its a good start.

  12. Logan Antill January 16, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    LVHRD’s fourth Architects Duel on January 29th will have two teams of architects designing structures for a post-oil world in the Alaskan Wilderness. Check it out if you’ll be in the city.

    Past ARCH DLs have been sick.

  13. David Harvey January 15, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Wow! it’s sure got a heap more panels than my neighbor’s place in southern Queensland, but then Sanyo had a much larger budget. :-)

    I do admire the shape of their structure, however. They could almost make it into one of those Times Square (or Picadilly Circus) type moving light scrolling news billboards… I guess it would have enough power to run such a thing.

    Very impressive indeed and a great publicity stunt for Sanyo. And extra points for making use of castoffs from the reject pile, too. Maybe they’d let some of us scrounge for cheap pv panels as well?

  14. Richie January 15, 2008 at 9:08 am

    In the photos… you can se that apparently there is no contiguous rear wall, because the sky is visible ! So This appears to be a building/sculpture, or a power generating station that includes a small ‘building’ section. I like the overall look and design. I guess the curved bottom area was too challenging to have as a floor ? Also… windows would have spoiled the look, etc. Overall… I see it as ‘modern sculpture’ that has a small building(the Museum) beneath it (Night time photo shows this). It’s a great ‘Billboard’ too !

  15. Ted January 15, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Whoa…your a little late on this…
    The arc has been up and generating since early 2000 with a museum opened in 2005 for the expo.

  16. Fahmishah January 15, 2008 at 6:30 am

    wow this is big.

  17. edna January 15, 2008 at 5:53 am

    “one of the best examples of building integrated PV design to date”

    Except it isn’t really building integrated is it? More like a solar power station with a small building somewhere nearby.

  18. meti January 15, 2008 at 5:30 am

    It reminds me of giant phallic object. Uh, I just mean I don’t think it is that pretty.

  19. Dan Dixon January 15, 2008 at 5:04 am

    I may have totally converted units/time wrong:

    The article says this:
    “The company wanted to make the largest PV system in the world, a 3.4 MW installation to mark its 50th anniversary.”

    If the Ark, with its defective cells, can produce 3.4 MW you would need 147 Arks to equal the power of 1 ‘average’ power plant.

    If the maximum system power = 630 kW (which is 0.6 MW) you would need 794 Arks to equal 1 average plant.

  20. Dan Dixon January 15, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Here’s info on its power output:

    Annual electrical output = Approx. 530 MWh

    Which seems to be an average size Fossil Fuel Power Plant. 500 MW is numerously cited here:

    Or 600 MW for a Russian Nuclear Power Plant

    Compare that to the world’s largest power plants that produce over 10,000 MW

  21. billy ray January 15, 2008 at 3:27 am

    hmmm, in 100 years it will balance the energy spent on steel supporting this massive cantilever =)…

    good job though, looks “special”

  22. peter gusztav January 15, 2008 at 2:52 am

    i wish that we had this for cars as well, gas company have to much power and always buys up solar companies.imagine we could have had solar powered cars years ago, if it wasnt for them, if you wanna read more comments,

  23. Tumppi January 15, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Dear Nick Simpson

    Please read the sentence of the text.


  24. rybert January 14, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    So… who was the architect? Looks like a Zaha Hadid.

  25. Samuel Fredicks January 14, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Absolutely stunning building! I hope that Sanyo also puts it’s mouth where their money is, by designing and building eco-friendly products as well.

  26. Nick January 14, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    “turning lemons to lemonade”
    Not a bad way to think about sustainable materials.
    We ran an issue-of-the-day on sustainable architecture:


  27. Nick Simpson January 14, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    I don’t get it – they’ve created a building from faulty PV panels? So does it create any energy? It sounds a little like a cost-cutting exercise to me, but it’s good to see these panels ended up being made use of.

  28. Chas January 14, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I’m not really sure how I feel about this.
    my first impression is that this really isn’t a “building” at all.
    This is really just the best highway billboard that I’ve ever seen.

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