Solar Powered Towers: 13 Super Sunny Skyscrapers

Nearly all sustainable architecture concepts include solar energy in some way, but not all of them do it in a big, bold way, bringing solar power to towering new heights. These 13 soaring solar powered skyscrapers incorporate solar cells in new and unexpected ways, from photovoltaic facades for existing buildings to flexible solar membranes that act as a building’s living ‘skin’.

Chicago Solar Tower

(images via: evolo)

Chicago is home to more than one unfinished mega-skyscraper, stalled by the state of the economy. But we can still hope that this Chicago Solar Tower by Zoka Zola Architects will someday become reality, bringing a highly visible example of sustainable urban design to the Windy City. The Solar Tower features a facade of round solar collectors on tracking arms that follow the sun throughout the day, increasing solar production 40% over fixed-arm arrays, and even the wind pressure on the frame of the solar array could be converted into clean energy.

The Lighthouse, Dubai

(images via: atkins-me.com)

Sure, the Lighthouse in Dubai doesn’t entirely rely on solar power to keep it going (theoretically, that is – it’s just a concept.) The design includes three gigantic 225-kilowatt wind turbines, which will produce a whole lot of energy. But it’s also covered in 4,000 photovoltaic panels on the south-facing facade that will absorb the plentiful sunlight available in this desert landscape.

EDITT Tower, Singapore

(images via: tr hamzah & yeang)

Economy permitting, Singapore may soon get a new 26-story vertical farm that packs as many solar panels as possible into 855 square meters to produce at least 40% of the building’s electricity. The EDITT (Ecological Design in the Tropics) Tower will be constructed from both recycled and recyclable materials and half of its exterior will be planted with organic local vegetation. Rainwater harvesting, graywater systems and a possible human-sewage-to-biogas project round out the impressive list of eco-friendly features.

Stackable Solar Skyscraper, Mexico City


(images via: design top news)

Nearly every level of the massive, airy Vertical Park design for Mexico City by Jorge Hernandez de la Garza contains solar panels to harvest all the sun it needs to provide power for homes, offices and recreation space. The stackable design allows expansion and even relocation as necessary, adding more sky gardens and urban farms.

Solar Membrane-Covered Tower Concept

(images via: evolo)

Looking like something that sprung from the soil rather than a man-made structure, this solar-powered tower by Kenneth Loh and Michelle Lim has quite an unusual exterior surface: not only is nearly half of it open and exposed in the form of gardens and green spaces, but it’s also covered in a membrane of solar cells. The core of the building is a hollow cylinder that moves hot air from the surface, controlling the temperature of all the green space, commercial space and residential units that surround it.

Structural Geodesics Skyscraper, Armenia

(images via: evolo)

With its unusual combination of fluid shapes, the ‘Evolving Skyscraper’ by Vahan Misakyan almost looks alien; it’s certainly unlike anything we already have constructed here on Earth. Three organically wavy and curved towers topped with spikes are connected with habitable bridges. The building, designed for varied uses like housing, offices and a hotel, is covered in an “intelligent skin” that not only absorbs solar energy to power the building but also collects water and controls just how much light to let in.

10MW Tower

(images via: studied impact)

Could the 10MW Tower be the most ambitious solar-energy skyscraper that actually has a decent chance of becoming reality? The design by UAE-based Studied Impact is tame compared to the outrageous and hyper-futuristic architecture often proposed for Dubai, but with its 5-megawatt wind turbine and 3-megawatt concentrating solar power system, the 50-story building could put out 10 times more energy than it actually needs.

Solar City Tower, Rio de Janeiro

(images via: rafaa)

From afar, it almost looks like a ghostly vision – a waterfall hanging in midair, with its source nowhere in sight. The Solar City Tower, proposed for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, is a powerful optical illusion that is more than just aesthetically pleasing; it’s an energy generator, collecting solar energy during the day and using pumped water to generate power at night. The tower also serves as an urban plaza and amphitheater for special occasions.

Dubai Vertical Village

(images via: evolo)

In the deserts of Dubai, how do you take advantage of the sun for energy production but prevent the building’s interior from getting too hot? One solution is to design the structure so that it shades itself. Vertical Village by Graft features an angled base covered in solar panels along with diagonal slab-shaped towers that reduce low-angle sun penetration. The towers hold residential units and inside the base are cinemas, restaurants and shops.

Solar Supertrees in Singapore

(images via: inhabitat)

They may not be skyscrapers in the traditional sense – more like a combination of energy generators, vertical gardens and artificial trees. They’re the star feature of ‘Bay South’, a botanical preserve in Singapore that will someday become the nation’s largest garden project. Reaching 30-55 meters into the air, the structures collect both solar energy and rainwater and act as giant trellises, illuminated by night.

Landau’s Abu Dhabi Tower

(image via: la times)

It would have been the world’s largest tower, a solar-powered 224-story wonder that would eclipse even the insanely tall, 126-story Burj Dubai. Designer Tommy Landau had hoped that his potentially record-setting structure would be approved by Abu Dhabi, and that by the time it’s ready to be constructed, the technology will be in place to coat the tower in solar cells so that it can be powered entirely by the sun. Unfortunately, Abu Dhabi turned the proposal down – now Landau is courting Saudi Arabia.

Almeisan Tower, Dubai

(image via: inhabitat)

No waste, no emissions, no need for outside power: this organic-looking spire design by architect Robert Ferry uses 224 heliostats placed around the top of the tower to focus sunlight onto a central receiver. Inside the structure is a cafe and observation deck, naturally powered by the tower itself. The excess energy produced by the Almeisan Tower would power the surrounding Za’abeel Park in Dubai.

Solar-Powered Vertical Farm on the London Bridge

(images via: chetwood architects)

Over the centuries, there have been many incarnations of the infamous London Bridge, some inhabited and some not. Architect Laurie Chetwood aims to bring life back to the bridge with a new design that would prominently feature two tall solar-powered spires – vertical gardens that also pull in enough solar energy to meet the bridge’s power needs. Food grown in the spires would be grown in a market on the bridge itself, which could also accommodate cafes, restaurants and even residences.

CIS Solar Tower, Manchester

(images via: design-build solar)

Few of the fantastic designs that have been proposed for solar-powered towers around the world have made it past the conceptual stage, but the Co-operative Insurance Tower in Manchester, England is actually complete, making it the largest vertical solar array in Europe. Perhaps that’s because the building was already there – this is just a facelift. The 40-year-old skyscraper got a sustainable facade made of over 7,000 solar panels.

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