Google Campus in Mountain View, California Takes Photovoltaics to New Heights

Aerial view of Google’s Bay View campus in Mountain View, California. Photo © Iwan Baan

Google’s Bay View campus in Mountain View, California has one of the largest building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) in North America, 90,000 silver solar panels stacked on top of each other on the style roof canopy of the building, to achieve the company’s goal of operating entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030.

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Google’s Bay View campus in Mountain View, California has one of the largest building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) in North America, 90,000 silver solar panels stacked on top of each other on the style roof canopy of the building, to achieve the company’s goal of operating entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. Photo courtesy of Google Company news

These BIPVs promise 7,000,000 W (7 MW) of installed renewable energy, responsible for nearly 40% of campus energy needs. GRAND-Group Bjarke Ingels and Heatherwick Studio collaborated with people at Google in an immersive R&D process, which considered several design options for the campus. The result was a design modeled after the low-lying hangar infrastructure, comprising two buildings spanning over 37,161 m2 and 55,742m2 (400,000 and 600,000 ft²), spread over two floors and double height reaching a maximum of 39.6 m (130 ft).

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Given the design of the large canopy-like roof, rectangular solar panels were out of the equation, according to Asim Tahir, neighborhood and renewable energy manager for Google’s property developments.

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Installing BIPV at Google’s Bay View office development. Photo courtesy of Christopher Mcanneny, Heatherwick Studio

The alternative used overlapping panels resembling scaly dragon skin. The panel is made from a special glass texture, which is prismatic in nature. Due to their prism-like and textured quality, the panels can capture more sunlight from different angles and retain more of it than flat solar panels. This means they can also allow power generation to spread out over the day, rather than peaking at the same time every day. The texture also gives the panels a unique sheen, earning them the name “dragonscale”.

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