Cathedral's stained glass produces energy

Anyone walking into Saskatoon’s Cathedral of the Holy Family will notice the huge colorful south-facing stained glass installation.

But “Lux Gloria” is more than just a beautiful art installation. The stained glass windows are a world first, they generate energy.

Canadian artist Sarah Hall embedded the more than 1,000 photovoltaic cells in her stained glass art work. There are 1,113 hand-soldered, silver colored polycrystalline solar cells embedded in the windows. The windows are meant to portray beauty and grace and also demonstrate energy generated from sunlight, a press release said.

The panels should produce about 2,500 kilowatt hours annually, Kevin Hudson, manager of metering and sustainable electricity for Saskatoon Light & Power said in a press release.

The prominent location of the windows in the newly constructed cathedral allows showcasing the integration of solar energy as a beautiful element of the building and not a necessary eyesore, said Jim Nakoneshny, facilities manager, in an email interview. The Cathedral would have installed stained glass anyway, so the additional cost to include the solar element was small, he said.

The energy production is relatively small compared to the 65,000 square-foot facility, but when tied into the electrical system the building will use all the generated power instead of keeping the two power systems separated and having to find a dedicated use for the solar power, he said.

The solar array was finalized, inspected and tied into the energy grid in July.

The cathedral considered using conventional roof mounted solar panels, but found integrating the panels into the building visually challenging. Embedding the solar panels into the stained glass made it a perfect fit. The title “Lux Gloria,” meaning Light of Glory, was inspired by the beauty of God’s creation expressed in Saskatchewan’s prairie skies and northern lights, the release said.

The installation includes a circle that represents prayer for unity. There are also 12 dichroic glass crosses signifying the Apostles.

The largest window is 37 feet high by 12 feet wide and is 107 feet above the ground. Each window is divided into 18 panels. Each solar panel is a unique size and shape.

Saskatoon receives an average of 2381 hours of sunshine - the most of any city in Canada.

The installation is Saskatchewan’s first building-integrated photovoltaic system. It’s a trend expected to grow.

Other churches have used conventional solar panel arrays connected to electrical systems, Nakoneshny said. But the Cathedral is the first to use a Building Integrated Photovoltaic system, which integrates solar collecting elements into the main architectural façade of the building.

Photo by Cristof Erban courtesy of Sarah Hall Studios

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