Taiwan's New Solar Panel 'Sun Rock' Will Deliver 1 Million kWh Per Year

It'll even pump excess power into the grid.
Brad Bergan
A computer-generated image of the 'Sun Rock'.MVRDV

A high-profile Dutch firm has launched an urban sustainability project of epic proportions.

Called the Sun Rock project, MVRDV has announced plans to build a building almost totally smothered in solar panels, capable of generating roughly 1 million kWh of green energy, every year, according to a new page on the company's official website.

Crucially, if it works, it could even pump excess energy back into the city grid, raising the question of whether entire neighborhoods of functional and residential buildings could also serve as power sources in the world of tomorrow.

And it's slated to be up and running by 2024.

Taiwan's forthcoming Sun Rock could supply excess energy to the power grid

Taiwan's government-owned power company, called Taipower, commissioned Sun Rock, with plans to use it as a visitor facility, in addition to a storage and maintenance center for renewable energy devices. But the most obvious and impressive feature of the forthcoming project is the facade, which will be almost totally smothered in solar panels (don't worry, there will also be vents and windows to promote the natural exchange of light and air). But 1 million kWh is a lot — the U.S. government has found that an average household uses roughly 11,000 kWh annually, which will rise (because of course it will) before the Sun Rock is finished.

"The site for Taipower's new facility receives a significant amount of solar exposure throughout the year, and so the rounded shape of Sun Rock is designed to maximize how much of that sunlight can be harnessed for energy," said MVRDV in a New Atlas report. "The facade maximizes this solar potential with a series of pleats, which support photovoltaic panels (mixed in with windows, where required) on their upper surface. The angle of these pleats is adjusted on all parts of the facade to maximize the energy-generating potential of the solar panels."

Sun Rock Interior
The first floor will display real-time metrics of power generation. Source: MVRDV

Real-time metrics of power generation at a glance

The new measures enable the forthcoming structure to support at least 4,000 square feet (4,000 square meters) of photovoltaic panels that can create nearly 1 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually. This is "an amount of energy equivalent to burning 85 tons of crude oil," added MVRDV in the report, stressing that this means the building is completely self-sufficient. And there's more: additional design options might slap an even wider region of PV panels onto the structure, which could support up to 1.7 million kWh per year. And this could help provide even more power to the conventional power grid.

The building itself will feature a colossal inner sanctum of space — roughly 138,000 square ft (12,900 m), and house a warehouse, maintenance workshop, and even an office. The first floor will be lined with gallery space, so ordinary people can check out what's going on in the maintenance workshop, not to mention the gigantic collection of wind turbine blades, solar panels, and more. As if shooting for a maximalist poetics of space, the building will also feature a "Data Room ", where real-time displays of Taipower's operations will be displayed for all to see, love, or scorn, depending on their persuasion. It's a big project that could foreshadow a deepening of urban design as the stakes of climate change continue to rise. And it's due to be finished in 2024.

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