SMA is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of inverters for photovoltaic systems, so they stepped up to the challenge of building a world-class solar-powered training facility in Niestetal, Germany. The resulting Solar Training Center is an inspired integrated solar design that packs an extraordinary photovoltaic wall and a zero-energy footprint into a clean contemporary form. HHS Architekten’s design is actually completely self-sufficient with no grid support, making it a perfect model for demonstrating the viability of large-scale independent buildings and green building design.
The highly integrated technology and self-sufficiency of the academy serve not only to educate but also to inspire students and visitors to take on bold designs in their fields. Behind the sleek solar electric façade is a demonstration hallway day lit and heated by the diffused silicon cells mounted on glass. The integrated solar panels wrap around the southern wall and onto the rooftop, where they are joined by several ground-mounted 2-axis tracking arrays.
The company’s solar inverters are lined up in the interior foyer for inspection by an estimated 15,000 students each year. Four classrooms sit on the wings of the building, and beside the central assembly space. An internal battery bank also shares the main floor and provides energy for when the sun is not shining, allowing the building to run completely independent of the electric grid.
The 1600 square-meter academy is raised up above the site, which is prone to flooding. An upper story contains a combined heat and power (CHP) system that supplements the solar thermal and electric systems in winter. Using biogas as fuel, it spins an electric turbine and the resulting heat from combustion is used to maintain internal heating throughout the building. In summer, cooling is achieved through a heat exchanger connected to a bore hole installation. A highly insulated shell lowers the required energy to maintain internal comfort. All of the equipment is easily accessible for display, and metering indicators relay the equipment’s status.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Pushing the limits of solar panel design and integration is important, but demonstrating this technology is essential for professionals to be able to integrate that knowledge in their own work. SMA’s boldly designed Solar Academy excels in both function and spirit.