Spinning solar building produces 5x more energy than it uses
Categories: Green, Energy
The Heliotrope is an environmentally friendly house designed by the German architect Rolf Disch who also designed the Sonnenschiff (Sun Ship). Three such houses exist in Germany, the first experimental version having been built in 1994 as the architect's home in Freiburg im Breisgau, while the other two are used as exhibition buildings for the Hansgrohe company in Offenburg and a dentist's lab in Hilpoltstein in Bavaria.
The Heliotrope in Freiburg was the first building in the world to capture more energy than it uses, all of which is entirely renewable, emissions free and CO2 neutral. The structure physically rotates to track the sun, which allows it to harness the maximum natural sunlight and warmth possible. Several different energy generation modules are used in the building including a 603 sq ft (56.0 m2) dual-axis solar photovoltaic tracking panel, a geothermal heat exchanger, a combined heat and power unit (CHP) and solar-thermal balcony railings to provide heat and warm water. These innovations in combination with the superior insulation of the residence allow the Heliotrope to capture anywhere between four and six times its energy usage depending on the time of year. The Heliotrope is also fitted with a grey-water cleansing system and built-in natural waste composting.
Inspiration came to Rolf Disch in the early 1990’s, as local German government wanted to build a nuclear power plant near his hometown of Freiburg. Disch and fellow activists fought hard to make sure the nuclear plant was not built and as an alternative, Disch constructed the Heliotrope, a spinning, multi-storied example of what a solar home can be.
It spins slowly, timed to rotate 180 degrees throughout the day, maximizing incoming sunlight. Through panels on the roof and a railing system that doubles as a solar/thermal water heater, the house is able to heat itself, cool itself and provide electricity with a 400% extra boon of leftover power.
Disch calls it PlusEnergy and he believes it is a “fundamental environmental imperative” that homes are built with this concept in mind. Also notable is that the building is totally emissions free and carbon neutral.
The Heliotrope was the beginning of an entire city that has sprung up around it, known as the Solar Village, or Solarsiedlung, pictured above. It is a testament to forward thinking design engineering, blending liberal intentions with a conservative result.