Photo Credit: Building Design + Construction

Solar + Steel

Pittsburgh (site of METALCON 2019!) is now home to the largest single sloped solar array in the United States thanks to a collaborative effort led by the city’s Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC), a private nonprofit company bringing large, obsolete, unused properties back to life to benefit the companies that occupy them as well as the communities in which they are located. RIDC saw an opportunity at the site of one of Pittsburgh’s very last operating steel mills, the LTV (J&L) Coke Works, which closed in 1998.

The building, originally built in 1943, was left to rust when the steel industry collapsed, but its bones – an underlying steel superstructure – remained strong. In 2015, Scalo Solar Solutions began working with RIDC and Almono to enable Mill 19 and other parts of the 178-acre Hazelwood Green site to be entirely sustainable. Mill 19 is one of the original structures located at the development.

The $5 million project included 4,784 silicon solar panels that cover 133,000 sf across the steel frame of the original building at a slope of 20 degrees. The panels were installed using an access platform netting material, called the Spider WorkWeb, and attached to the steel skeleton of the original mill building, which envelops two new construction buildings. Each of the LG solar panels were preassembled and tested on the ground before being lifted into place.

The array is expected to generate over 2 megawatts of power and produce enough energy to power 264 homes annually. The panels are made of solar-grade silicon that sits under glass. When sun hits the panels, electrons bounce around and knock other electrons loose, then wires collect the power and feed it down to building. Mill 19 has been designed with the goal of achieving LEED v4 Gold certification. It includes a high-performance envelope providing maximum thermal efficiency and up to 96% daylight autonomy. Storm water will be conveyed through a rainwater garden to centrally located infiltration basins. Captured rooftop rainwater will be reused in the cooling tower and for flushing in the restrooms.

Mill 19 tenants include Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing and Manufacturing Futures Initiative, and Catalyst Connection in Building A. Building B includes Aptiv, a company that recently partnered with Hyundai to create autonomous vehicles.

The project has already been recognized as the Green Building of the Year by NAIOP Pittsburgh and named one of ENR MidAtlantic’s Best Projects for 2020. This type of development could become a standout example of prosperity in the near future and being pushed as a world-class model for sustainable development. (Source: PostIndustrial’s Making a Brownfield Green)

Solar work in progress; photo courtesy of Scalo Solar Solutions and appeared in Next Pittsburgh.