The world's largest solar bridge is finally open for business!
The city of London has covered the roof of its Blackfriar's Bridge (part of the Blackfriar's Railway Station) with 4,400 photovoltaic solar panels. The new solar array will have the capacity to convert enough solar energy to make 80,000 cups of tea a day. Since the energy created is entirely carbon free, the photovoltaic cells will reduce the station's carbon footprint by 511 tons, or an average of 89,000 car trips per year.
Solar arrays usually appear on the rooftops of buildings, or as part of large solar farms outside of cities–which makes the Blackfriar's Bridge all the more impressive. The project marks an ambitious effort to convert rail infrastructure—which itself consumes a sizable about of energy each year—to help solve the complex climate puzzle. With four new passenger platforms and a redeveloped Underground station, the solar bridge and station give London residents new incentives to commute by rail.
As London continues to push the envelope in terms of innovative solutions to expand its renewable energy output, we decided to take a look at other ambitious projects that are rethinking the ways solar energy can be harnessed to reduce our dependance on fossil fuels. From new sustainable planned cities that run entirely on solar energy, to affordable solutions to bring practical energy solutions to people in remote areas, check out the most innovative projects powered by solar energy.
1. HOK's photovoltaic sun shade for 2020 Dubai World Expo
When Dubai was chosen as the host city for the 2020 World Expo, with the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” HOK unveiled its plans for an enormous photovoltaic sun shade that will cover the upcoming complex's walkways to harness solar energy.
The design aims to generate 50% of the necessary energy on site during the day, while transforming into a dazzling light display at night. As more cities compete to host major exposition and sporting events, we hope to increasingly see designs like this that work to mitigate the carbon-generating effects of constructing these mega-projects.
2. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill's 2017 Astana World Expo
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill's plan to transform Kazakhstan's capital of Astana into an energy city of the future is like something out of a science fiction film. A brand new 173 hectare site, designed for the 2017 Astana World Expo, will be powered entirely by solar and wind energy through rooftop photovoltaics and on-site wind turbines.
Centered around a strikingly futuristic spherical pavilion that emits a beam of light at night, Smith and Gill have planned housing projects, education and health care facilities, shopping centers, parks, and boulevards. But, unlike the massive building projects for other expositions and sporting events that often go into disuse and disrepair after the culmination of events, AS+GG have planned for the expo site to act as a vibrant, sustainable district for years to come.
3. AS+GG's Federation of Korean Industries Tower
Earlier this year, AS+GG completed the Federation of Korean Industries Tower, which features one of the world's most energy-efficient façades. Clad in a self-regulating skin of photovoltaic panels, the 240-meter tower not only harnesses the sun's energy, but it also reduces internal heating and cooling loads. The façade features a unique rippled design, which orients the solar cells towards the sun, while minimizing the amount of direct sunlight and glare inside.
4. Azuri Technologies' solar-charging kit
While many proposed energy-efficient solar projects aim to help large corporations and city governments reduce their carbon footprints, Azuri Technologies has proposed a radical solution to bring solar power to communities that don't have access to sustainable technologies through a $10 solar-charging kit for families in sub-Saharan Africa.
The kit comes with two and five-watt solar panels that can provide energy to power lights and charge mobile phones. It typically takes 18 months for the kits to be paid off, which then become property for the customer to keep generating free, clean energy.
5. Rawlemon' clean energy sphere
While photovoltaic cells often clad the rooftops of energy buildings to harvest sunlight, Rawlemon has designed a spherical, clean-energy generating globe that can capture light from the sun, moon, and clouds. A cross between a TV-satellite dish and a marble, this futuristic design can provide sustainable power day and night, even during inclement weather.
Using a dual-axis tracking system, the energy sphere has the ability to concentrate sun and moonlight up to 10,000 times, making it 35% more energy-efficient than traditional photovoltaics. The design has attracted considerable interest, and was a finalist in the 2013 World Technology Network Awards. Rawlemon is already working on a second iteration of the marble-like design.
6. Foster + Partners' Masdar City
Just outside of Abu Dhabi, Foster + Partners have begun work on Masdar City, an entirely built-from-scratch concept that is set to be the UAE's next innovation city. Set to be complete sometime around 2030, Masdar aims to be the world's first sustainable, zero-carbon, car-free city, relying solely on renewable energy like solar power—of which sunny UAE has plenty.
In addition to renewable energy, Masdar will incorporate narrow streets, thick-walled buildings, extensive shading systems, courtyards, wind towers, and overgrowth of vegetation to mitigate the harsh climate and create a walkable city.
Want more architecture + sustainability? Check out Eco-Cities: Sustainability Trendsetters Or Gated Communities?, Rainwater Harvesting And Collection Systems That Provide Clean, Potable Water, and Cool Architecture Alternatives For Living Without Air Conditioning.