In what could be an outstanding example of sustainable onsite power generation, Australian architecture studio Kennon has designed a new office tower in Melbourne that will use an integrated solar facade to produce electricity for the building’s use.

Located at 550 Spencer Street in West Melbourne, the 8-storey, 5000sqm building will – for the first time in Australia – feature 1,182 thin-film solar panels on its facade, which will generate more power than the building needs, and eliminate 70 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, according to the studio. The innovative solar facade firmly sets the building on the path to carbon neutrality in a few years.

Architect Pete Kennon said the solar facade has the capability to generate more than 50 times the energy produced by a standard rooftop solar power system used in residential developments. The building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system at 550 Spencer will feature solar panels of the same thickness and appearance as conventional glass facade panels, ensuring the look of the building is not compromised.

Kennon will be using Skala solar panels manufactured by German company Avancis, with the installation to be implemented by local glass distributor George Fethers & Co. More than 40 panels were shipped into Australia for testing by Red Fire Engineers. The panels were used to build a replica of the proposed facade, and their performance and safety tested successfully under real fire conditions.

The 550 Spencer street office tower is the first building to receive approval from the Building Appeals Board of Victoria for the use of an integrated solar facade system.

The Skala panels have thin-film solar cells built into 3.2mm tempered glass and come in a range of 9 colours.

The $40 million office tower is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in 2023.

Image credit: Kennon