Freiburg is one of the sunniest cities in Germany with an average of 1,740 hours of sunlight per year. A good supply of sunlight coupled with Germany’s advanced renewable energy programs have resulted in some amazing projects such as the Sonnenschiff.
The Sonnenschiff community around Freiburg was designed with solar power in mind. As a result, it generates more power than it consumes.
The Sonnenschiff translates to: The Sun Ship. The community got its name since the skyline looks like a freight ship, and has roughly 1,000 square meters of solar panels. The community is extremely energy efficient due to its 3-pane windows and vacuum insulation.
The ventilation system also utilizes “heat recovery” where the outside air is pre-heated or pre-cooled by the air leaving the building. When the community does need heat, it is provided by a wood-chip heat and power plant outside the community center.
With the success of such projects in Europe, we are finally seeing similar projects getting built in North America. However, most of these North American projects are not aiming to generate more power than they consume. Instead, they are built with limited solar capabilities that are meant to offset 10%-30% of the electricity bill.