I’m not good at music trivia, and I won’t claim to have a favorite song. My car radio has buttons set to country and classical stations, news, oldies, easy listening, and one or two stations the kids liked – heaven knows why. Yet, when it comes to the Beatles, I can’t remember a time I haven’t been able to sing all the words to their songs. Now, here’s a building that takes to heart their song “I’ll Follow the Sun.”
This is an instance of something on paper looking good, but in practicality, can they make the building change orientation? And conceptually, as the article points out, having solar panels on some sort of “moveable mounts” makes perfect sense, as the sun’s never in the same position throughout the day and seasons.
Based on the geometry, fixed solar panels typically are set to an angle perpendicular to the sun at solar noon of the spring or fall equinox. At that fixed position, they are 100-percent efficient. But, as the sun moves east to west and up and down in attitude during the course of its journey across the heavens, its rays will be perpendicular to a fixed panel for brief moments, possibly only twice a year, depending on how they’re set. And when the rays aren’t perpendicular, the panel’s efficiency drops off.
Curved or parabolic reflectors attempt to overcome that inefficiency by capturing and/or focusing more rays to a collector. Most of these collectors change their angle in relation to the horizon or to the travel east to west, thus offsetting that part of the sun’s journey.
But an entire building that twists to follow the sun? The structure would have to be substantial given the load transfers, both for the building’s weight and wind loads at the staggered floors. Maybe those end walls shown in gray in some of the conceptual drawings are just pure structure, with no way of permitting even the smallest of windows.
I guess it could work to twist the whole of the tower east to west and returning it to the east to face the sunrise in the morning. But, buildings are heavy. To get the whole of this new “Twilt” building to twist, can you imagine the machinery to move it, let alone the size of the turntable the building would be constructed on (basically the foundation so that it wouldn’t tip over, also), and the force required to start that rotation?
Additionally, the solar panels themselves would be cantilevered off balconies or extended slab edges, which could then be mechanically moved to orient them to the sun’s attitude, much like the parabolic collectors mentioned above. In combination with the turntable, this could make the venture credible.
But realistic? Is there a developer out there prepared to spend this kind of mullah, and are there users, be they office or condominium buyers, willing to pay the rent or purchase price? That’s obviously a decision way above my pay grade, and it’ll be interesting to see if this turns into reality.
An idea just occurred to me. Maybe the “death ray” buildings we’ve recently read about are missing the mark, and with a little work could be made to serve as productive solar collectors and not death sources from the sky. Maybe the architects could design curved surfaces into buildings and focus the sun’s energy on a focal point on the ground that can collect the rays and turn them into electricity. It might require land and the collector might have to move as the focal point of the sun’s rays change.
I’d love to see how that concept would play out in the shape of a building. Wouldn’t you?
Until then, as the Beatles sang, “And now the time has come, and so … I must go.”