The U.S. Mission’s Photovoltaic System
Photovoltaics use solar cells made of silicon to absorb sunlight and convert it directly into electricity. Solar energy is most commonly generated by flat arrays on rooftops or in solar energy farms where the panels are arranged in rows on the ground.
By contrast, a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system incorporates solar panels into a building’s exterior architectural design. The U.S. Mission now has the largest BIPV system in the Canton of Geneva and one of the largest in Switzerland, featuring 950 square meters of solar panels on rooftops, along walls, and over windows.
Since July 5, 2005, when the Mission’s energy system was placed on line, it has generated an average of 366 kilowatt hours per day. At peak capacity, the system can produce enough electricity to power 37 average homes.
On an average summer day, the electricity generated by the photovoltaic installation prevents 360 kg (800 lbs) of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO 2) from being emitted into the environment. Over the course of the expected 30-year life of the system, this will amount to a total savings of approximately 1,800 metric tons (1,960 tons) of CO 2 .
Two American firms, Solar Design Associates of Harvard, Massachusetts, and Hankins and Anderson of Glen Allen, Virginia, collaborated on the design for the project.
Five companies in the U.S. supplied components for the project:
- RWE SCHOTT-Solar, Rockland, California (Sloped roof, façade, and sunshade panels)
- Powerlight, Berkeley, California (Flat roof systems on the conference center and main building)
- Shell Solar, Chatsworth, California (Flat roof – PV laminates)
- SMA America, Grass Valley, California, (Electric power inverters)
- Multi-Contact USA, Santa Rosa, California (Wire terminals)
A consortium of three Swiss companies carried out the construction:
- SunTechnics Fabrisolar (Project Leader), Küsnacht
- Envision (Logistics and Field Management), Mönchaltorf
- BE Netz (Structural Installation), Luzern