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Photograph: Iwan BaanThe new Google campus

Are dragonscale roofs the future of sustainability in the US?

The first-of-its kind roof was just unveiled in California.

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman

As the climate emergency carries on unabated, Google is making an effort to reduce its carbon footprint... like, entirely. With the rollout of a new Bay View campus in Mountain View, California, every detail is planned to reduce the company's carbon footprint.

Perhaps the most jazzy of the eco-friendly components is the ‘dragonscale’ roof. Not to be confused with the Game of Thrones fire-breathing variety, this dragon skin is comprised of solar panels. The first-of-its kind design is made up of 90,000 silver panels with the capacity to generate nearly 7 megawatts of energy. It results from years of product development, collaboration and studying prototypes made by European manufacturers. Each glass shingle is highly textured with a prismatic nature that captures light that would escape from more traditional flat solar panels, earning the name dragonscale for their sparkle. The roofline looks like multiple tents and is somewhat reminiscent of Denver’s airport. 

New Google HQ
Photograph: Iwan Baan

Google’s stated commitment is to decarbonize its energy consumption so that by 2030, it will ‘operate on carbon-free energy, everywhere, 24/7.’ The dragonscale roof helps with that; the 7 megawatts of energy it generates will cover nearly 40 percent of the campus’s energy needs. Nearby wind farms will supplement. The campus’s approach to water – in a drought-ridden state – involves commitment to being “net water-positive.” That means that all non-potable water will be provided using recycled water from above-ground ponds that capture rainfall. There’s also a wastewater treatment system on campus.

The 1.1 million square foot facility opened last week after five years of construction and can hold 4,000 employees, many of whom are starting to come back to a brick and mortar workplace after years of work-at-home protocol. 

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