Sun City

The German capital Berlin gives a preview of the solar energy future

Published: Monday 31 January 2000

 The photovoltaic facade at th the German capital of Berlin is today showing what the future of energy may look like. When the German government moved from Bonn to Berlin in 1991, it was proposed that solar power should be featured in the form of photovolataic ( pv ) facades in the governmental quarter. One of the first pv facades was inaugurated in 1993, when the renovated ecological office building kotec showcased the first visible example of sophisticated architecture. But it was not expected that other such projects would follow so soon.

Today, about eight years down the line, the first solar facades and roofs have been completed. Several other structures are coming up or are being planned ( Renewable Energy World , Vol 2, No 6).

Some of the most important government buildings are witnessing a turnaround. The city centre of Berlin is a huge construction site. Most buildings in this area are governmental or for the use of governmental arms, including the German parliament Reichstag and the Chancellary. The ongoing construction projects include about 500 kilowatt (kw) of pv s funded by a government budget of about dm 18 million (about us $10 million).

The buildings with pv installations around the Reichstag are connected to a local renewable energy grid. This features about 400 kw of rooftop and building integrated pv s, including 150-kw pv s installed in the Chancellary. The conversion of the old Reichstag building, built in 1894, into a modern complex featuring pv s is one of the most important statements on the way Germany is headed in terms of energy. The renovations efforts, directed by a British architect Norman Foster, are aimed at providing daylight for the parliament during daytime and crystal-like light effects at night.

The renovation of the Reichstag building is aimed at a new, ecologically sound design. Right in the middle of the steel dome structure is a central element for heating and ventilation. The goal is not only to save energy but to reduce the use of fossil fuels to minimise carbon dioxide emissions. Another step to reduce use of fossil fuels is a central heating plant for generation of heat and electricity. The plant runs on a renewable fuel, namely vegetable 'biodiesel'. It has a capacity of 3.2 megawatts, covering 80 per cent of the annual power requirements of the Reichstag building.

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