Exploratorium's New Waterfront Home Will Be Solar Powered

rooftop solar panels at the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium’s rooftop solar panel array will satisfy 100% of the facility’s electricity requirements.

One would expect a museum dedicated to the past, present, and future of science to be at the leading edge of the renewable energy curve, and the Exploratorium doesn’t disappoint. In support of its net-zero energy goal and as part of its LEED gold certification endeavors, in the spring of 2013 the San Francisco-based museum of science, art, and human perception will move into a new home at Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront equipped with a rooftop solar power system that will satisfy one-hundred percent of the facility’s electricity needs.

The solar system, already complete, has been built from 5,874 high efficiency solar panels supplied by SunPower Corp. The panels produce 1.4 megawatts DC, with inverters transforming this into 1.3 megawatts AC. It’s enough to power about a thousand average American homes and will more than satisfy the museum’s electricity requirements. Any excess power will be fed back into the local utility grid for use by PG&E’s other customers.

The move is only part of the Exploratorium’s efforts to create an environment that is completely carbon neutral. Other steps include a heating and cooling system that uses filtered water from San Francisco Bay, high performance glass that limits heat gain, the use of natural light wherever possible, and low-emitting materials.

The solar power system alone should reduce the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by 33,150 tons over the expected 30-year lifespan of the system, compared to conventional energy sources. That equates to removing 5,910 cars from California’s congested highways.

Commenting on the environmental advantages of the system, Dennis Bartels, executive director of the Exploratorium, noted, “The SunPower system is a critical piece of the puzzle in meeting our ‘net-zero energy’ goal, reducing our impact on the environment, and eliminating a significant operational cost.”

By supplying one-hundred percent of the facility’s electricity demand, the solar power system will eventually result in substantial monetary savings. Bartels continues, “The savings will allow us to invest more in the innovative learning experiences for which we are known worldwide, as well as create learning opportunities about the physics of energy.”

Guests to the museum will be able to monitor the system’s performance through a real-time status display in the lobby of the main building, updated every 15 minutes.

As a global leader in informal learning, the Exploratorium represents an ideal environment to introduce educators, students, and entrepreneurs to the art and science behind renewable energy. The museum’s own solar panel array will aid in that endeavor.

Explore solar power’s potential yourself with a “Sunforce 50048 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit” from Amazon.

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