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.