Photo by Wanda Lau
The world-renowned Fallingwater house in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania was designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater deploys solar array for renewable energy

April 26, 2022
Located on a half-acre in an existing open field near the Fallingwater house on the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Bear Run Nature Reserve, the new solar array's 540 individual panels will annually produce 254,880 kilowatt hours of energy.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (Pittsburgh) on April 22 announced that a newly deployed solar array on the campus of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house in the state's Fayette County will soon harness the power of the sun to offset 100% of electricity used by the site’s main and guest houses.

Located on a half-acre in an existing open field near Fallingwater on the Conservancy’s Bear Run Nature Reserve, the new solar array consists of 540 individual panels that will annually produce 254,880 kilowatt hours of energy to offset the electric power supplied by West Penn Power. The array will also offset 25% of the overall facility’s electricity use.

Funding notes

As stated by a press release, Fallingwater’s transition to clean renewable energy was made possible through grant funding from the Pennsylvania Solar Center’s G.E.T. Solar Initiative and a power purchasing agreement with  Ecogy Energy of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Additionally, PECO, an electric utility company based in Philadelphia, purchased the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates from Ecogy Energy to help meet the site's renewable energy goals set forth by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Finally, Groundhog Solar of Altoona, Pa., completed the installation of the array in February 2022. The system will begin producing solar energy in the coming weeks.

Deployment details

The deployment's 5x3 foot solar panels are mounted on ground-anchored posts that required no landscape alterations or tree removal. The area surrounding the panels will continue to be maintained as meadow habitat, sure to attract a multitude of wildlife including native species, insects and pollinators.

Ecogy Energy used bifacial solar panels, which produce power from both sides to maximize efficiency and increase overall solar production, for the construction of the array.

“To be involved in a project for a conservation-minded organization like the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and in such a beautiful location is undoubtedly an honor for Ecogy,” said the company's CEO Jack Bertuzzi. “Fallingwater has a rich history, so being able to support and energize the site's operations with clean energy truly represents the integration of sustainable solar technology with Wright’s architecture.”

Justin Gunther, vice president of the Conservancy and director of Fallingwater, noted that Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic estate undertook a detailed feasibility analysis before deciding to implement solar energy, and that the array is one of many projects over more than 20 years that advance the Conservancy’s commitment to sustainability practices.

“In designing Fallingwater, Wright sought to create a harmonious relationship between architecture and nature," Gunther explained. "He was inspired by the natural features of the woodland landscape for the house’s colors, materials and design motifs, and oriented the building to take advantage of natural light and passive airflows.”

Gunther continued, “Installing solar carries forward Wright’s ideals and continues the Conservancy’s commitment to protect and preserve this beautiful landscape and the architectural principles that make Fallingwater unique. We’re thankful to Ecogy Energy and Groundhog Solar for their partnership, helping us take steps toward a more sustainable future through clean renewable energy.”

This video from the Bauhaus Movement Youtube channel illustrates Fallingwater's design:

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