Swiss researchers develop colored solar panels for building facades
White and colored modules developed by Swiss researchers have put photovoltaic panels well on the way to conquering building facades – bringing considerable potential for the decentralised production of renewable energy.
The drab aesthetics of traditional photovoltaic panels, with their blue and black colors, often represent an architectural constraint. In order to resolve this problem, the CSEM – Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology – has developed colored panels (in particular, white and terracotta) for optimum integration into the walls and roofs of buildings in our towns and cities.
The principle is as follows: a nanotechnology film is affixed to standard crystalline silicon solar panels. Acting as a filter, it enables infrared waves to pass through to the solar cells while the surface reflects the full spectrum of visible light. In optimum conditions this results in electricity production of 90 to 130 W/m2, depending on the color.
A first in the design world
This innovative film is being prepared for mass-production by Neuchâtel company Solaxess. They have developed a partnership with the Belgian company ISSOL, which markets the first white and colored photovoltaic panels, and has recently established a site in Neuchâtel. It has a total photovoltaic production capacity of 100,000 m2 per annum.
This is a first in the design world, opening the doors to numerous perspectives for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). As well as the aesthetic advantages, since these concealed modules can be integrated into all surfaces of a building without being limited to the roof, they increase the surface area that can be dedicated to a building’s energy production and efficiency. The modules are complete structural elements, substituted for other elements of the shell such as render or sheeting, which results in a considerable reduction in construction costs.
Local electricity production and smart cities
Increasing photovoltaic surfaces, thereby relocating production to the heart of towns and cities, also means that the sites of energy production and consumption are brought closer together.At present, many solar farms are located tens of kilometres away from the urban areas they serve. Since photovoltaic power is not easily transportable, this results in significantly reduced efficiency.
The CSEM is also setting itself up as a centre of excellence for the development and mass-production of low-consumption cells. In another energy efficiency sector, the centre has contributed to the deployment of LoRa technology in the city of Neuchâtel. This technology enables objects to communicate and data to be transferred at lower fixed costs, with solutions that are less power-hungry. Digital and energy technologies are brought together with microtechnology to bring about numerous new applications for smart cities.