Bell Works in Holmdel — Courtesy: Somerset Development
By Joshua Burd
Somerset Development has started construction on what will be the latest distinctive piece of its vast Bell Works complex in Holmdel: the largest photovoltaic glass skylight in the United States.
The firm announced recently that Onyx Solar, a global manufacturer, is spearheading the installation of 3,200 skylight panels that will span the property’s quarter-mile-long atrium roof, covering 60,000 square feet. Upon completion, the photovoltaic skylight will both naturally illuminate the complex while generating free, clean electricity from the sun.
“Bell Works is already home to an extraordinary community of innovators, and it’s our job to continue to innovate the building commensurately,” said Ralph Zucker, president of Somerset Development. “People want a workplace that extends itself beyond professional needs — one that stands for something beyond the cubicle walls.
“As Bell Works continues to attract some of the region’s most forward-thinking companies, it is only fitting that it incorporates the latest in sustainable technology, all in a way that is both functional and attractive.”
The installation is made up of what’s known as a building-integrated photovoltaics system, featuring 24 different glazings from Onyx Solar to cover the skylight within the historic 2 million-square-foot, Eero Saarinen-designed building. Each piece will be made up of two sheets of tempered safety glass laminated with a thin photovoltaic film material.
The design is meant to reduce solar heat gain while producing energy, all while preserving the historic design of the iconic former Bell Labs, Somerset Development said in a news release.
“Where traditional opaque solar panels are designed solely to generate electricity, Bell Works’ newly installed PV skylight will be transparent, allowing for light to pass through the PV Glass without compromising the building’s renowned day-lit atrium,” said Diego Cuevas, vice president for business development of Onyx Solar. “The photovoltaic glass will enhance Eero Saarinen’s unique aesthetic while maximizing energy efficiency in this expansive space.”
Bell Works is also planning to provide electric vehicle charging stations in its outdoor parking lots, which will utilize the energy produced by the newly installed photovoltaic glass.
It will be the latest addition to the mixed-use environment that is taking shape at Bell Works. The massive redevelopment effort, a decade in the making, is transforming the former research hub into what Zucker describes as a metroburb.
Bell Works has leased more than 60 percent of its office space, anchored by a host of growing technology firms and other users such as Jersey Central Power & Light.
Meantime, Toll Brothers has started development of the residential portion of the 472-acre site, which will include 40 single-family homes and 185 age-restricted townhomes.