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Solar Energy for Franklin in Summer '22
The advancements in recent years in the production of photovoltaic elements have considerably improved the aesthetics and efficiency of most buildings. Today, mixing functionality, sustainability, and style can be done without compromising on shapes, colors, light, and architectural structure. The construction of Franklin's photovoltaic system on the new "Phase 3" building is a result of the renewed collaboration with the Industrial Companies of Lugano (AIL) SA, and other local partners. Walter Sassi, a professional in the field of renewable energy and project manager for AIL, gives us incredible insights on the technology behind the project.
"From the outset, the project's goal was to create a highly innovative building, both from an architectural and an energetic point of view. Franklin was interested in installing a traditional photovoltaic system on the roof and on the facade of the building. This technology is relatively new and constantly evolving, investing in this sense imposes a certain level of risk, precisely where AIL came into play."
Ticino is still not very advanced in this field, however, AIL was capable of identifying the most suitable partners to support in the development of the project, including the award-winning Italian firm Flaviano Capriotti Architetti, the Ticino-based building company Giovanni Quadri SA, and the architect Mr. Ceccarelli from AFRY. The first feasibility studies were the result of the work of a multidisciplinary team that involved, in addition to the architects and the design studio, the construction management and the general contractor - who were already working on the construction of the new Campus - SUPSI , Kummler & Matter of Mezzovico, Poretti & Gaggini, a leading company in the production of mechanical moving parts, and Sunage, supplier of photovoltaic modules.
The role of AIL was crucial because, in addition to being the main financier of the project and its operation, we worked on developing the concept of photovoltaic blades and outlining the basic parameters for electrical design and automation. Secondly, we had the task of aggregating the skills of the involved parties in order to refine the project, formalize the technical-design aspects, and lay the foundations for the industrialization of the final product.
The Franklin University Switzerland "Phase 3" building will be the first-ever in Europe with a mobile photovoltaic system, capable of tracking the position of the sun, architecturally integrated thanks to the use of white modules. Over the course of a day, the slats move independently, always positioning themselves to make the most of solar radiation. This mechanism makes the building sustainable from an environmental point of view and, at the same time, offers shading for greater thermal comfort and lighting. The facade of the building enhances the symbol par excellence of knowledge, a book, and is not only used to produce energy: the photovoltaic slats can create sunshades if necessary and are activated through a home automation system from inside the auditorium.
The question of integrating functionality and aesthetics was undoubtedly one of the main challenges. In the design phase, we had several setbacks in an attempt to combine architectural and mechanical needs. From a technical point of view, there are important design constraints, but in the end we succeeded and are incredibly proud of the results.
The assembly and installation of the photovoltaic system will begin in April 2022. Unfortunately, the delays in the supply of raw materials globally and the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected both AIL and the general construction company. Nevertheless, the goal is to gift Franklin with solar energy starting from this summer 2022. In addition, the building will also dispose of the AIL Solar Cloud, which allows the "storage" of solar energy to later be used when most needed.
Last but not least, the aforementioned photovoltaic system is today counted among the special research projects supported by the Swiss Federal Energy Office (UFE), specifically created to allow further study on still little-known technologies. To access this funding, a whole series of activities are required, including constant monitoring of the plant at the performance level, data collection, and analysis of the replication potential. This is truly a great achievement."
Read the official Italian version of this news piece on the AIL SA website here.