Architect Rolf Disch built the Heliotrope (the first building in the world to capture more energy than it uses). He then set his sights higher: All aboard the “Sonnenschiff”!’. The solar ship is an urban redevelopment district that converted an old French army barracks outside Freiburg, Germany into 100% solar-powered retail, office, and living spaces.

Freiburg’s Sonnenschiff (solar ship) and Solarsiedlung (solar village) are part of a self-sustaining settlement that uses smart solar design along with a multitude of photovoltaic panels pointed in the direction of the sun. The solar village became energy net-positive in 2004.

All rooves are covered with standard large photovoltaic panels that are smartly integrated onto the south facing rooves of the different buildings. The technology is nothing new, the PV panels are just the standard ones, the rooves are angled to face South, it’s not rocket science! It’s simply smart! It’s largely due to the personality and persistence of architect Rolf Disc to realise an Energy-Surplus-House® and then to scale this up to a whole village. Today the village is producing four times more energy than it consumes.

Willpower and support are key in the switch to renewable energy.