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 transport and further electrification of homes, the demand for sustainable energy in the built environment will only increase, making it logical to generate it where the demand is. So far, only five per cent of roofs are used for solar energy and there is plenty of potential for upscaling.

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 transport and further electrification of homes, the demand for sustainable energy in the built environment will only increase, making it logical to generate it where the demand is. So far, only five per cent of roofs are used for solar energy and there is plenty of potential for upscaling.

Unfortunately, not all roofs are suitable or from an aesthetic point of view it is undesirable to use standard panels, so innovative solutions and new products are needed to scale up the available roof surface in the Netherlands.

Lightweight and attractive solutions

Half of the approximately 800 square kilometres of available roof surface in the Netherlands is on commercial real estate or agricultural roofs. Although large roofs such as those of industrial buildings and distribution centres are ideally suited for solar roofs, the weight of standard PV systems is often too high for their load-bearing capacity. Therefore, there is a need for other, affordable solutions in the form of lightweight PV systems that can be applied in a safe and simple manner.

Farm with solar roof

New business

Another limiting factor for the further use of roofs and facades for the generation of solar energy is that people often do not like the standard blue and black PV panels. Technology to produce solar panels in any desired shape, size and colour will increase acceptance and allow architects to design buildings and homes that generate energy without compromising their creative freedom. Integrating solar panels into existing buildings or new construction is not only important in terms of generating much more solar energy, but it also creates new business and new market combinations. Opportunities arise for building and construction firms, their suppliers, machine builders, installation firms or parties that take on a new role.

Technological breakthrough

TNO is working with a wide range of companies on technologies that should improve and facilitate solar panel integration We expect that mass customization, a new platform for PV integration, will be the technological breakthrough to address the challenges outlined. The mass customization concept allows solar cells to be quickly, flexibly and affordably integrated into all kinds of surfaces and objects, from roofs and facades to cars. TNO has built a pilot production line that serves as a model for a new generation of factories that will produce flexible semi-finished products with PV functionality. This provides new opportunities for the manufacturing industry where suppliers produce solar laminates for further integration in building elements but also offers the possibility for (prefab) construction companies to integrate this production into their existing process.

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Peter Blokker

  • PV Modules & Applications