We live in an age where most people are becoming increasingly conscious about preserving the world around us, finding alternative means of clean energy, and sustaining our resources so that they will be here for future generations to come. Because of this, it is no surprise that architects and designers around the world are working towards incorporating solar energy into new buildings and projects to make them as green as possible. Solar power is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available to us. From the rooftops of the Vatican to the Sahara, we’ve put together our list of the world’s most extraordinary solar powered projects.
China’s Solar Powered Office Complex
Located in Dezhou, in the northwestern Chinese province of Shangdong, is the largest solar powered office building in the world. The 75,000 sq. foot fan-shaped structure is a multi-use facility with exhibition centers, meeting rooms and a hotel — all of which are solar powered. The building is designed specifically to, “underline the urgency of seeking renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels.” Architecturally, the building was built in a sundial shape for the sole purpose of saving 30% more energy than China’s national standard.
The Desertec Industrial Initiative
Tree huggers, behold the largest solar powered project in the world! The Desertec Industrial Initiative plan aims to develop, “a reliable, sustainable, and climate friendly energy supply” by harnessing clean power from deserts to take a leading role in the fight against global warming. Within six hours, the desert consumes more energy from the sun than all of humankind consumes in a year, making this project one of the most beneficial in the fight for worldwide alternative energy. The first area of focus will be in the southern Mediterranean region of Morocco, then Greater East Asia, with plans for eventual global implementation.
Sanyo’s Solar Ark
In order to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Sanyo decided to make the largest PV system in the world, constructed from material that was to be thrown away from the thousands of units of monocrystalline cells that were recalled in 2000. Based in Gifu, Japan, the “Ark” is a mind-blowing 630 kW solar-collecting building that has over 5,000 solar panels and produces 500,000 kWh of energy per year. Inside the massive ark is a laboratory and solar museum where Sanyo is diligently working on the next generation of solar technology.
The Sahara Forest Project
Slated to start construction in 2015, The Sahara Forest Project is a new environmental solution that provides a holistic approach to tackle challenges such as providing clean water, clean energy, and sustainable production of food in the Sahara Desert region. Enabling restorative growth in one of the world’s most arid regions will help alleviate food and water shortages, contribute to forestation efforts, and produce biofuels in the desert area. By utilizing what is already there to produce what there is a great need for allows for exponential growth in this region of the world. Developed by an international environmental NGO, Bellona, based in Norway, and King Abdullah II of Jordan, the project will hopefully get the go ahead in Jordan first.
Inspired by reading Jules Verne’s adventure-filled novels, Switzerland-native Raphael Domjan decided to embark on his own journey: traveling around the world in a ship which would be propelled by solar energy alone. Since 2004, Domjan tirelessly reached out to physicians, engineers, shipbuilders and sailors to help him make history with PlanetSolar, and in 2008 his vision was made possible. After several months of research, New Zealand designer, Craig Loomes came up with the ship’s unique design. Equipped with a double hull vessel, an extremely light carbon structure and electric motorization allows for the ship to be incredibly durable with navigation that is unmatched to date. PlanetSolar departed on September 27, 2010 out of Monaco and will complete its journey by the end of summer 2012. From East to West, stops include Miami, Cancun, Brisbane, Shanghai, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
In recent years, the Vatican has taken many strides to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions that they use. Although it is the smallest country in the world, the Vatican has spent $660 million to construct a gigantic 100MW photovoltaic installation which provides more than enough power for the entire country. Not only is Vatican City solar powered, but the Pope himself has retrofitted his summer residence to be powered from the methane generated by the property’s horse stables. If the Catholic Church is jumping on board with solar power and energy, it is very evident that this is the future indefinitely.