Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West: Powered by First Solar
This past May, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation inaugurated a new 250-kilowatt (AC) solar PV power system donated by First Solar which will help power the historic Taliesin West campus in Scottsdale, Arizona. The commissioning marks the successful completion of the first phase of the Energizing Taliesin West™ initiative, a pioneering effort to transform the entire National Historic Landmark Taliesin West site into a “net zero” energy customer, producing as much energy as it consumes annually, while maintaining the historic and architectural integrity of the site. The comprehensive project, led by energy efficiency consultant Big Green Zero, is focused on the twin goals of maximizing the campus’ energy efficiency through improved lighting, insulation, climate controls and other techniques while also generating renewable energy on-site.
The system is worth $1 million and incorporates 4,000 ground-mounted First Solar PV panels, which have a total peak generating capacity of about 250 KW. Given the ample sunlight in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, the system is expected to generate about 500 megawatt-hours of electricity per year with no water or waste. When combined with the energy conservation initiatives underway at Taliesin West, the output is expected to meet all of the site’s annual energy needs.
Taliesin West is not only a historic landmark, but also a site of tremendous significance to the international architecture community. So the project team led by Larry Whittet of First Solar’s Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) group faced formidable challenges to build a renewable energy system that stays true to the substantial history of the site, but also captured the innovative spirit of Wright and his passion for experimentation. Together, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Big Green Zero and First Solar created a system that integrates with the campus, enabling the Foundation to show off the technology while still maintaining the historic integrity of the site.
The entire solar power system is engineered to provide maximum renewable energy with minimal impact. The site was consciously designed to be invisible from the historic core of the campus, but it was positioned in such a way as to make a visible statement to visitors as they approach. Native cacti and other plant species which were removed during construction will be transplanted throughout the project site, and the entire site will be seeded to restore native vegetation. The clean, emission-free electricity generated by the First Solar thin-film modules will displace approximately 300 tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking more than 50 cars off the road. Over the life of the system, which is expected to be 25 years or more, that’s about 7,500 tons of CO2 that will not be put into the atmosphere.
Jim Lamon, a Senior Vice President who leads First Solar’s EPC team that designed and built the site, summed it up: “We are very proud to be a part of this historic landmark, and we are confident the integration of clean solar power into Taliesin West will help advance the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and educate visitors from around the world about renewable energy.”
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