A pioneering initiative integrating sustainable energy at Taliesin West is underway. The goal of the groundbreaking effort is to transform the entire National Historic Landmark site into a “net zero” energy customer—producing as much energy as it consumes annually—while maintaining the historic and architectural integrity of the site. The comprehensive endeavor is focusing on the twin goals of maximizing Taliesin West’s energy efficiency (through improved lighting, insulation, climate controls, and other techniques) while also generating clean renewable energy on-site.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, in conjunction with energy efficiency consultant Big Green Zero, announced the project earlier this year. To kick off the initiative, the Foundation has partnered with First Solar, Inc., one of the world's leading solar companies, to install a 250 kW (AC) solar photovoltaic (PV) array at Taliesin West. Arizona-based First Solar is a premier provider of complete solar PV systems and has developed and installed some of the largest and most noteworthy solar projects in the world. Approximately 4,000 of the company’s sleek, black solar modules will generate clean electricity for Taliesin West, helping it achieve the goal of becoming a net-zero energy consumer. As part of its commitment to the local communities where it operates, First Solar, with help from several key suppliers, is donating the complete custom-designed, ground-mounted solar PV system.
The panels will not be visible from anywhere in the historic core of Taliesin West, nor will tour guests be able to see the panels from any location during their entire tour experience – maintaining the historic integrity of Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home and studio. Sean Malone, CEO of the Foundation, said, “However, intentionally, guests will be able to see the impressive solar array from the road before they arrive at Taliesin West to take their tour—celebrating the Foundation’s commitment to sustainable energy.”
The Solar Hemicycle design for Herbert Jacobs second house in Madison, Wisconsin, was one of the earliest passive solar designs.
Every year, more than 100,000 tourists visit Taliesin West, which also houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. “I couldn’t be more excited about this partnership with Big Green Zero and First Solar,” said Malone. “This is an extraordinary opportunity; the goal of making a world-famous National Historic Landmark site entirely self-sustaining is unprecedented. And we’re going to make it happen. The endeavor will have a broad and deep impact for sustainability efforts throughout America and across the globe. And, importantly, the initiative is entirely consistent with the values of Taliesin West: innovation, an evolving site, embracing new technology, celebrating nature, and strategic use of resources.”
Larry Whittet, First Solar project manager for the Taliesin West solar project, said, “Frank Lloyd Wright is synonymous with innovation in architecture and design, and we share the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s passion to forward his legacy – by integrating sustainable energy into his work. Taliesin West is a global architectural landmark that has captivated the imagination of visitors for seventy-five years, and we are proud to be part of this historic undertaking.”
The Energizing Taliesin West™ program was initiated after a recent energy assessment by Big Green Zero. The assessment indicated that Taliesin West’s energy bills could be reduced by as much as 51 percent through simple conservation methods. In addition, the property has potential to achieve a “Big Green Zero” by producing as much renewable energy as it uses each year.
Robert Roth, Ph.D., CEO of Big Green Zero, said he was proud to announce First Solar as a partner in achieving the sustainability goals. “As a local company focused on harnessing Arizona’s most abundant natural energy source – the sun – First Solar will provide Taliesin West with state-of-the-art solar panels in order to reach the property’s goal of producing as much energy as it consumes,” said Roth.
“This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Taliesin West™ adds Malone, “a perfect time to focus on the future. Energizing Taliesin West does just that—it celebrates the future of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and our future as a society.”