Net-zero buildings are nothing new, but a 330,000-square-foot net-zero energy use campus is not something you read about everyday. The Exploratorium, a science museum moving in spring 2013 to Pier 15 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, will be the largest net-zero energy use museum in the nation thanks to a new partnership with SunPower.

“This project combines an effort to both innovate and think critically about the impact science can have on the world. Our net-zero goal is, in part, a way to reduce our global footprint and help improve the community we’ve been a part of for more than 40 years,” said Dr. Dennis Bartels, executive director of the Exploratorium. “Net-zero is a process — and an opportunity for the public to learn with us.” (Source: Exploratorium)

A variety of energy-efficient measures and renewable energy technologies will be used to achieve net-zero energy use including:

  • A 1.3-megawatt SunPower solar power system comprised of 5,874 photovoltaic modules. Any energy created by the system that is not used by the museum will be fed back into the local PG&E utility grid for use by other customers.
  • A water heating and cooling system that runs on water from the bay. About 73,800 gallons of bay water will be recirculated through the facility every hour.
  • The bay water system will conserve 2 million gallons of water annually by eliminating the need to use evaporative cooling towers.
  • The museum is designed to maximize outdoor light, reducing the need for artificial lighting.
  • A ventilating system that uses 100 percent outside air with no recirculation, which is not only energy efficient but it provides better indoor air quality for employees and patrons.
The facility isn’t just targeting net-zero energy use; it is also being built to meet LEED Gold green building standards. The Exploratorium is easily accessed by local public transportation and will feature a public plaza filled with educational exhibits.

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