Gallery: The World’s 6 Coolest Solar Powered Projects

Solar power is arguably the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available to us. It is therefore no surprise that all around the world, architects and designers are incorporating solar technology into new buildings and projects to make them as green as possible. We scoured the globe for some of the coolest solar projects constructed or in the works -- from the largest solar-powered office building in the world to Enviromission's solar towers to the PVs that top off the Vatican. Hit the jump for our 6 favorite projects!

Sanyo’s Solar Ark

It is amazing what can be constructed from material that was to be thrown away. That is what occured with Sanyo who aimed to make the largest PV system in the world, a 3.4 MW installation, in order to mark its 50th anniversary.

The problem? The company’s monocrystalline cell scandal that saw thousands of units recalled, and all of the reclaimed cells were destined for the dump. But Sanyo opted to built a massive monument to their solar technology. At the time, Sanyo said of their Gifu (Japan) based building that it was “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.”

However, they need not apologize, as the Ark is an impressive 630 kW solar-collecting building that has over 5,000 solar panels and produces over 500,000 kWh of energy per year. Not just that, but all over the Solar Ark’s 1,033ft exterior are over 75,000 colored LEDs that can light up to create images and messages. Inside the Ark is a solar museum and laboratory where Sanyo are working on the next generation of solar technology.

China’s Solar Powered Office Complex

The Japanese are not the only one who are fans of solar technology — the Chinese are too. With the country now the world leader in solar cells, it is no surprise to learn they also have the “largest solar-powered office building in the world“.

Located in Dezhou in the Shangdong Province in northwest China, the 75,000 sq m fan-shaped structure is a multi-use building and boasts exhibition centers, scientific research facilities, meeting rooms, and a hotel — all of which are solar powered.

The beautiful building was designed to “underline the urgency of seeking renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels.” Its sun-dial influenced structure enables it to save 30% more energy than the national standard.

EnviroMission’s Solar Towers

Solar Towers aren’t a new idea, in fact they’ve been around since the 1980s, but Australia-based EnviroMission Ltd are aiming big with their proposed project. Their plan is to build two massive 2,400ft solar updraft towers (almost as tall as the Burj Khalifa) that span hundreds of acres in La Paz County, Arizona.

Using solar draft technology, the towers generate hot air with a giant greenhouse and then channel the air into the chimney. The warm air then turns a turbine to produce energy.

Of course, the project is still in the development phase and will eventually cost $750 million, but the Southern California Public Power Authority have already approved EnviroMission as a provider, so progress is being made.

The Sahara Forest Project

Designed by biomimicry architect Michael Pawlyn, Seawater Greenhouse designer Charlie Paton, and structural engineer Bill Watts, the Sahara Forest Project aims to enable restorative growth in the world’s most arid regions.

Developed between Bellona, an international environmental NGO based in Norway and King Abdullah II of Jordan, the project will hopefully first get the go-ahead in his country. The team have even been invited to the country to discuss a feasibility study.

Currently, the project is scheduled to go ahead in 2015, and if it is a success, it will have massive environmental benefits, such as  alleviating food and water shortage, producing biofuels, and contributing to forestation efforts in desert lands.

The Desertec Initiative

The Desertec Industrial Initiative is the largest solar project in the world. The US$550 billion plan aims to develop “a reliable, sustainable and climate-friendly energy supply” in North Africa’s Sahara desert that will be capable of providing the entire MENA region with energy as well as Europe.

When the project was first announced in July 2009, it sounded a bit like science-fiction and was dismissed as being “unrealistic” and even exploitative. However, once it was noted that the project could provide 15 percent of Europe’s electricity by 2050, people began to sit up and listen.

Currently Desertec’s first solar power plant is under construction. The $822 million Moroccan power plant will be a 150-megawatt, 7.4 square mile solar plant and is the first step in the major 500MW super project.

The Vatican

Solar power must be the future if the Catholic Church is getting on board with it. In fact, the Vatican is so into alternative energy, the city has the largest solar power plant in Europe.

Although it is the smallest country in the world, the Vatican has spent $660 million to build a massive 100MW photovoltaic installation. The output will be more than enough to provide enough power for the whole country.

The main installation is located on a 740 acre site near Santa Maria di Galeria and has seen solar powers placed all over the city.


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  1. Tauno Nakuhaka July 25, 2013 at 5:56 am

    This are all great project: and I would like to start one in My Village (NAMIBIA)

  2. senmut October 19, 2012 at 8:48 am

    This solar,…power plant is built the same way how I described, explained Techen Towers from Atlantean times. Look on my web:
    They only copied what about I wrote,..dimensions, proportions,..number of turbins in funnel,..

  3. newengineer January 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    dear Sir/Madam
    In my opinion solar and wind energy are great to certain extent but they are costing the tax payers a fortune and they are only supplying energy amount to a drop in the ocean by the name of low carbon energy, I think the only way we are going to make any effect to the climate is to have a system for every home small and cheap enough and easy to install even if it can generate daily.
    Watch this space all I am waiting is some help.
    Basil Hanna

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