Schott: Houses As Power Plants

People from Austria enjoy living in harmony with nature, particularly those who live in the region known as Styria, the green heart of the alpine republic.

This is probably also why resourceful engineers and investors came up with the idea of generating heat and electricity from sunlight here. In living up to its motto ”A City Full of Energy”, Europe’s first Plus Energy housing estate was founded in the community of Weiz, the capital city of Eastern Styria with a population of 9,000. It consists of 24 row houses that generate more electricity than they consume. Tenants and owners obtain their electrical power from more than 400 multicrystalline solar modules, most of which are type ase 275 from schott. The photovoltaic installations stretch out across the entire southern sides of the houses and simultaneously provide the upper floors with shade.

With a total surface of more than 1,000 square meters, the solar plant generates around 120,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. This would sufficiently cover the needs of almost the same number of additional accommodations, which is why these buildings are called Plus Energy houses. Their occupants simply feed this electricity into the public power grid. Similar to the way it is in Germany, operators receive compensation of between 49 and 60 euro cents per kilowatt hour. As a result, the additional costs incurred to build the colony can be completely recovered rather quickly. Gemeinnützige Siedlungsgenossenschaft Elin GmbH, the construction company, even estimates that the operators of the solar modules will begin to earn money in about ten years.

The solar modules from SCHOTT that the Austrian builder elected to use have won numerous awards. They consist of quadratic cells that are imbedded inside hardened double glass. This means a long lifetime and protects them from extreme weather conditions. The modules function in the summer, even at temperatures up to 90 degrees Celsius, and in the winter at minus 40 degrees. Although they are only around one centimeter thick, these modules can stand up to snow loads of more than half a ton per square meter or hailstones. Furthermore, the stabile aluminum frame and connectors and cable that are pre-installed by SCHOTT Solar ensure a quick and easy installation.

”We are proud that this unique housing concept, that even received the European Innovation Prize for the region in 2004, now has also earned the Austrian Solar Award,” says Helmut Kienreich, Mayor of the city of Weiz. After all, the complex built by Styria’s KW Solartechnik GmbH is known to be the largest coherent photovoltaic installation in all of Styria. The design of the housing units somewhat reminds people of a cube: quadratic – practical – environmentally-friendly. And architect Erwin Kaltenegger was so taken with the workmanship that he immediately decided to move into one of the apartments himself.

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