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Sputnik Engineering builds solar-powered solar factory

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May 28, 2013

The sleek rows of windows in the building's recessed oblong front combine with the wood fi...

The sleek rows of windows in the building's recessed oblong front combine with the wood finish to create the impression of a piece of 1970s consumer electronics (Photo: Buckhardt+Partner)

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You'd expect, or at least hope, that members of the solar industry walk the walk when it comes to designing environmentally friendly offices and factories of their own. And though we don't know much about Sputnik Engineering's office and production building at Biel, Switzerland, its designer, Burckhardt+Partner, claims the building's electricity is provided entirely by renewable energy.

It's not remotely surprising to learn that Sputnik Engineering, which trades under the brand name SolarMax and which is in the business of making photovoltaic inverters (which convert the DC current produced by PV cells to AC required for certain uses, such as being fed into the grid), should turn to solar power for its new building. A rooftop solar array accounts for a "significant proportion" of the electrical demand, according to Burckhardt+Partner.

If the claim is accurate, it's an impressive achievement. It's one thing to build a house with all-renewable electric supplies. Offices and factories are much more intensive energy consumers, due to the equipment and machinery packed densely into the floor area – in this case, all 11,800 sq m (127,000 sq ft) of it .

An all-renewable approach tends to mean stringent control of energy use at the best of times, and it appears that efforts have been made to keep consumption down. The factory floor is bathed in daylight from the rows of skylights overhead, which will greatly reduce the need for electric lighting.

A word or two must be put aside for the aesthetics of the design. Thanks to the wood-panel facades the building would pass for a contemporary office complex or corporate HQ. The sleek rows of windows in the building's recessed oblong front combine with the wood finish to create the impression of a piece of 1970s consumer electronics.

Burckhardt+Partner's design won the competition to design the building in 2009. Construction was completed in 2012. We've asked for more detail on the technology behind this design, and will update this page if we hear more.

Source: Burckhardt+Partner via Arch Daily

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
5 Comments

As it stands, I don't believe the hype.

For something that size as an engineering factory the size of the battery storage for use when the sun isn't shining would be rather large and it doesn't appear in any of the promotional pictures which is rather strange.

ivan4
28th May, 2013 @ 03:57 pm PDT

Of course it would be the ultimate to have a solar panel factory run by solar panels. Then we'd have truly sustainable solar panels, or close to. But I agree with ivan4 that it can't really be completely run by solar but it is conceivable they have signed up to a grid supplier that generates power by a combination of sources. We have such contracts in Australia where you can sign up for "green" power and your grid needs are allocated against green sources.

Kudos for the effort. The factory looks nice too.

Scion
28th May, 2013 @ 09:00 pm PDT

It is near a hydroelectric plant.

Slowburn
28th May, 2013 @ 09:15 pm PDT

Michael, That myth was debunked years ago by the US government. Typical energy 'break even' occurs between 8 months and 3 years depending on the type. Considering most solar panels have a 25 year 80% output guarantee and even the early panels manufactured in the 1970's are still producing 70+% (early Arco panels) - the returns are evident. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/35489.pdf

Other studies below: http://sunlightsolar.com/img/PV-Embodied-Energy_Home-Power-mag.pdf

Marc 1
30th May, 2013 @ 12:52 pm PDT

I think it possible on sea are where heat and pressure are more helpful to use the solar power and we can get fresh water from that project if we use salt field or reflection of solar power . and can make more energy by transformer or generator if we like to steam engine there .

Kazi Hossain
31st May, 2013 @ 10:00 pm PDT
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