With the help of an architect who specializes in designing and building homes that are reliant on solar energy, a city in Germany was able to develop what is called a solar city or solar village. Majority of the residential homes and commercial facilities in the city are powered by solar cells and panels.
The architect behind the project is Rolf Disch. Having spent more than 40 years developing solar solutions for residential and commercial districts, Disch is a true pioneer when it comes to designing solar-powered facilities. Disch also leads an engineering and architecture firm which has been his main driving force in turning his goals into reality.
The city of Freidburg in Germany is now widely considered as the leading solar city in the world. Through the years, residents and owners of business establishments slowly transitioned to solar energy as their main source of power. This is very apparent if you visit the city. There are solar cells and panels everywhere. On the roof of the grandstand of the local football stadium lies a major solar plant. Even public swimming pools and parking meters are powered by solar energy. What started out as a small solar project ballooned into a city-wide initiative when people started installing cells and panels on their rooftops.
When asked why he decided to design a solar city, architect Disch answered that “the idea behind the housing development is becoming more and more a question of not merely saving energy but of opening out and using nature”. The architect added that the whole solar project “is not about exhausting nature but taking advantage of it completely”. The first popular solar building that Disch designed was the Heliotrope. The design attracted a lot of attention in the renewable energy industry because it was the first building in the world to generate more energy than what it uses. Disch improved his initial design and came up with the Solar Ship in 2004. This is the building that inspired the creation of a solar city in Freidburg.
Today, the solar city generates four times more energy than what it consumes. The place also earned the unique distinction of being home to the largest solar research center in Europe.
Not only is the solar city running entirely on solar energy, it is also very cost-effective. In fact, the residents are reimbursed when the power that their homes generate are sold to local power companies and other utility agencies. Because of this cost-reduction scheme, most private companies and public facilities within the solar city make their roofs available for the installation of solar modules, cells, and panels. The city council was also very instrumental in the development of the solar city by writing laws and legislation that encourage residents and business establishments to pursue cleaner and renewable sources of energy.
The people behind the solar projects in Freidburg are hoping that their concept will catch on and spread in other cities in Germany. They say that this would be the first step towards achieving freedom from fuels that are non-renewable and damaging to the environment.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.