Sustainability Could Get Sexy with Some Solar Pyramids

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lunar cubit – solar pyramids


‘lunar cubit’
all images courtesy of lunar cubit

‘lunar cubit‘ is a site specific proposal to be constructed in abu dhabi, outside masdar city,
and once completed will be the world’s first zero-carbon metropolis.
winner of the 2010 UAE design competition for energy generating public art of the
land art generator initiative, the project combines artistic vision with sustainable design and engineering.


a central pyramid is surrounded by eight smaller ones

overall, lunar cubit consists of nine pyramids that mark the lunar phases.
it is constructed from solar panels that collect energy during the day and are illuminated at night,
inversely proportional to the lunar cycle. the structures are made from glass and amorphous silicon,
giving them the appearance of onyx polished to a mirror finish.


aerial view of the pyramids illuminated according to lunar phases

designed with proportions matching great pyramid at giza,
scaled using royal cubits, the earliest attested standard of measure;
eight pyramids, each 42 royal cubits high (22 meters) form a ring around a central pyramid that stands at
96 royal cubits high (50 meters). each of the smaller pyramids represents one of the eight lunar phases.
starting at the north and rotating counter clockwise, following the orbit of the moon they are:
new, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent.
each night, the central pyramid will always illuminate inversely to the lunar cycle.
pyramids forming the ring are lit only when their corresponding moon phase is active,
rotating around the central pyramid much like the moon orbits around earth.
it considers and examines the nature of time, through nightly contemplation of lunar phases
and the daily transformation of sunlight into electricity, with a capacity of powering up to 250 homes.

the ‘lunar cubit’ is much like a timekeeper or monthly calender, allowing viewers to measure time
through the eight lunar phases. day passes; a crown of shadows slide silently across the shrubs
and sand as the sun rises and falls, moving across the sky, disappearing into the horizon.
two pyramids begin to glow, rising in luminosity as twilight fades and the sky grows dark.
its illumination, inversely proportional to the lunar cycle, while LEDs shine through thousands
of tiny bands that are the cellular structure of amorphous silicon solar panels,
creating a diffused glow that rises to become a solid pyramid of white light.


shade study – summer solstice june 21st, 2010


the eight pyramids, surrounding the central structure and their reaction according to the lunar phases

the pyramids are built on a concrete foundation, with a steel support structure that carries an
extruded aluminium façade. these components are engineered by schürco,
a leader in building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). the solar panels themselves –
suntech thin film solar panels LC-1 and LC-2 – create a seamless exterior surface.
for this particular application, amorphous silicon modules outperform crystalline modules,
and different from other thin films, are 100% environmentally safe.
there are no moving parts that are susceptible to breaking or which need to be serviced.

using frameless thin film solar panels it is estimated that embodied embodied energy
is reduced by nearly 30%. the total embodied energy for lunar cubit will be recovered in under five years.


simulation of the pyramids by day

‘lunar cubit’ provides a personal experience, where one is able to literally reach out and touch a
1.74 MW utility scale power plant in the form of nine monolithic pyramids.
visitors are encouraged to walk amongst these beacons. stone paths flow around the structures
in a repeating pattern mirroring buried electrical cables, conducting electrons from the
outer pyramids to the central pyramid where inside, they are transformed into AC energy
and transmitted to the local utility grid. co-locating walking paths and conduits minimize
the footprint of disturbed land during construction, allowing the maximum amount of
natural ecosystem to remain relatively untouched.

the ‘lunar cubit’ team consists of:
robert flottemesch, an artist working with renewable energy as well as a senior engineer
at hudson valeey clean energy new york state’s largest solar integrator.

johanna ballhaus a landscape designer in hudson valley new york whose design language
puts an emphasis on low environmental impact.

adrian p. de luca, a founding team member of locus energy, which provides web-based
operations and management software to be distributed renewable energy market.

jen de nike, an artist living in new york.

via fastcodesign

andrea db 01.31.11

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