Vertical solar on high-rise building to produce 58 MWh annually


Dominion Properties turned its vision to reality by transforming a brick façade into a generative asset. An 83-foot solar array was installed on the side of the company’s seven-story building near Milwaukee, Wisc. by Arch Solar. The array, which is now operational, is expected to produce about 58 MWh of electricity annually and will help defray the cost of electricity for tenants in the office building.

“Solar represents a huge market opportunity for commercial office locations,” explains Mike O’Connor, Co-Founder, Dominion Properties. “Being an office building – where typical working hours are when the most energy is used – a proportion of the building’s energy will come from solar. This means our tenants can enjoy savings on their energy bills, particularly important today as the cost of energy continues to skyrocket. This project is the first of many, and we hope that it will encourage other developers to make use of otherwise wasted space on high-rise buildings by embracing solar as a clean, cost-saving energy source.”

Vertical solar is uncommon but not unheard of–two recent examples include transportation and agrivoltaic designs. Canadian BIPV firm Mitrex is creating photovoltaic highway noise barriers that are currently in a pilot phase in North America. The sound barriers have 1.2 MW of capacity per kilometer.

Semi-transparent vertical PV noise barriers.
Image: Mitrex

And German-based  Next2Sun has designed vertical racking for bifacial solar modules meant to be installed in between rows of crops or as a fencing structure.

Attaching traditional solar modules on the side of a high-rise building takes some innovation and Arch Solar used masonry anchors to secure the modules to the side of the building in an array that’s 83 feet high by 23 feet wide. Because the building is in a populated area, the challenge was to avoid reduced output due to shading from surrounding buildings. Arch Solar attached SolarEdge’s Power Optimizers to the modules technology as well as three SolarEdge Inverters with Synergy Technology to ensure maximum power generation.

“This far North in Milwaukee, the ideal installation for modules is at a 23° angle for maximum sun exposure and to help snow clear. However, for wall installations such as the vertical high-rise array with Dominion Properties, this is a more complex challenge, as the modules need to be mounted at a 90° angle. If you don’t want to lose power efficiency, then really SolarEdge’s inverters and Power Optimizers are the only choice,” said JD Smith, head of business development at Arch Solar. “For Dominion Properties, maximizing power generation to ensure maximum savings for tenants was a non-negotiable, so having access to this technology is what made this project possible.”

Smith noted that the Synergy inverters can be oversized by up to 200%, so Dominion has the option to add more modules without additional investment in power electronics.

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