A new University of Washington building in Seattle makes use of 100 kW of an innovative vertical PV fin system from Onyx Solar.
The modern research and instructional space the Life Sciences Building (LSB) will provide students with over 170,000 sq ft of open and flexible lab space to boost a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to research in the field of Biology.
The building has been designed by architects Perkins + Will, and it is a seven-story construction–including two stories below grade, which has been envisioned as a benchmark project in terms of energy efficiency, innovation and onsite renewable energy.
The design targets LEED-NC Platinum Certification, and the deployment and usage of clean energy sources were a primary objective of the University’s Climate Action Plan for Sustainability.
In this sense, the UW-Solar student group worked with Perkins + Will to design and install a combined 100-kW solar system, featuring the vertical photovoltaic fin system installed on the South-West elevation of the building.
These PV fins are a first for the United States and are made of amorphous silicon (a-Si) solar cells. They are all-glass, semi-transparent, letting 20% visible light to pass through the fin. A total of four different dimensions were required by the design team to meet the design intent.
- They work as a sun control device, helping decrease HVAC needs. The South elevation of the building is set to receive high solar radiation in summer and the photovoltaic fins will help shading the building and thus reducing the heat transfer.
- They work as windbreaks in winter, boosting the insulation of the building.
- They diffuse light and control glare, contributing to more comfortable daylight conditions.
- Their solar cell coating filters 99% UV radiation, mitigating the interior’s aging.
- They generate free and clean electricity, decrease the building’s carbon footprint, and contribute to LEED Certification. Also, they perform under low-light conditions.
- They aesthetically blend with the rest of the architectural design. They do not look like traditional PV panels, but like conventional glass fins.
Each fin consists of a three-ply laminated, tempered glass, and it offers 3.15 W per square foot. They are frameless and were installed vertically, perpendicularly to the curtain wall. Concealed junction boxes and wires do perfect the architectural design.
Both the fin’s depth and the horizontal distance from fin to fin was carefully analyzed by Perkins + Will and Onyx Solar, to optimize the performance of the system and help preventing self-shading situations that could impact the output.
The PV fins were tested to UL standards and they are set to start generating power as soon as the electrical interconnection is completed. The lobby of the building will feature a dashboard that will let students and visitors learn from the system, and monitor the energy production on real time. They will be able to compare the building’s energy demand against the renewable energy sources onsite, and explore the model.
The photovoltaic fins are highly visible from Pacific Avenue, which will help raising student and visitor awareness about sustainability and innovation.
News item from Onyx Solar