TNO strives for an optimal combination of yield, economic feasibility, aesthetics and integration into multi-functional end products.
Roads that generate energy
Following the first successes of SolaRoad – cycle paths fitted with solar cells – TNO and partners are now conducting practical trials on provincial roads used by heavy traffic. As with other applications, the primary function of the infrastructure must be fully preserved. In concrete terms: the generation of energy via roads must be reliable and economically viable without endangering traffic safety. Our road network covers some 140,000 kilometres, a significant proportion of which can be fitted with this technology. A third of this can already produce enough energy to power nine million electric cars.
Utilising noise barriers
Another part of our infrastructure that can be utilised for solar energy is noise barriers alongside motorways. TNO is working with partners on various designs for solar noise barriers. A successful example is a technology for integrating two-sided solar panels in noise barriers. This has the potential to cover many hundreds of kilometres. In collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat and Heijmans, the first 400-meter-long noise barrier has been realised near the Dutch town of Uden. These bifacial panels no longer require south-facing installation as they capture sunlight from every direction. TNO is now developing the same application in noise barriers along railways. Some 700 kilometres are potentially available for this.
Besides, TNO researches with partners the possibilities of solar panels on dikes. How would that affect the safety of the dike? Would they fit into the landscape? Would the energy yield outweigh any possible drawbacks?
The load-bearing capacity of many large, flat roofs is not adequate for the application of today’s standard technology. The Netherlands has more than 2000 distribution centres with large roofs, as well as many industrial buildings in the agricultural sector. This adds up to more than 100 square kilometres of roof surface that can potentially accommodate at least 10 gigawatt-peak (GWp) of PV. In order to make the most of this potential, TNO is working with companies to find out which lightweight materials and structures can be used. Most solar panels currently contain glass, making them too heavy for this application. A new type of plastic-based solar panel can be used to create lightweight PV systems for these roofs. The utilisation of all these roofs may provide a wealth of sustainable energy without prompting any aesthetic objections.
BIPV: variety in shape and colour
In the summer of 2020, some very special solar panels were installed on the facade of the headquarters of the construction company BAM in Bunnik. The shape, colour and pattern of these panels nicely complement the appearance of the building. Such new forms of coloured or patterned PV module in BIPV, form an alternative to the standard PV panel available in one dark colour and fixed format. This allows architects to design buildings in aesthetic freedom and still capture solar energy as needed for meeting the norms of near zero energy buildings. In the future, windows will also be able to generate solar energy.
Reducing societal costs
The large-scale utilisation of roofs and facades has the additional advantage that the solar energy is generated where the demand is. This reduces the need for transportation of electricity via expensive cables and other infrastructure. Utilizing the roofs and facades increases the sustainable energy capacity and provides society with a substantial cost advantage.
It is still relatively expensive to manufacture tailor-made solar panels in any desired colour. TNO is developing a technology that could bring about a cost breakthrough: ‘mass customization’. Mass customization focuses on cleverly designed semi-finished products that can be made in a cost-effective way. These can then be ‘tailor-made’ and integrated into a wide variety of components and end products.
MORE FOCUS ON SAFETY
New products and applications also bring new challenges in terms of safety. TNO uses its expertise and experience to work with partners to minimise the safety risks of current systems and future products.
Curious about the growing potential of solar energy on buildings and infrastructure?
Contact Wiep Folkerts
Building façades will also generate solar energy
For a long time, solar energy in the built environment was mainly generated via solar panels on the roofs of homes and offices. But the roof surface alone, especially in high-rise buildings, is insufficient...
PV windows: windows that generate solar energy
A lot of surface area in the built environment is suitable for the generation of solar energy. Optimal use of the facades and roofs for energy generation on buildings is paramount to reach our climate...
More focus on safety of solar systems
Solar power generation will play an increasingly important role in our renewable energy mix. It is important that we make the best use of all suitable surfaces for this purpose. This will lead to a wide...
Making better use of potential solar heat and PV-T
Solar panels are mainly found on roofs, where they convert sunlight into electricity. But the photovoltaic cells in PV panels can also be combined with solar collectors to produce heat and electricity....
Many more roofs to be used for solar energy
Our country has many hundreds of square kilometres of suitable roofs for the generation of solar energy. Utilising this surface area is essential for the energy transition. With the increase in electric...
Noise barriers producing solar energy
For a long time, it has been technically possible to install solar cells in noise barriers, but the cost of doing so is high while efficiency is relatively low. TNO has now succeeded in devising and building...
Solar energy in road surfaces and crash barriers
Integrating solar panels into roads and crash barriers are solutions for the production of large-scale and invisible solar energy without the need for additional space. The idea is therefore to give as...
Great potential of solar panel energy generated on dikes
Our country has some 17,000 kilometres of flood defences, mainly dikes. Of these, some 1,600 are, in principle, suitable for installing solar panels. But how would that affect the safety of the dike?...
Solar and infrastructure: how can we use our infrastructure to generate solar energy?
A large-scale rollout of solar parks requires a great deal of open space. Since the open space in the Netherlands is limited and to spare the use of agricultural land as much as possible, we are looking...