Smart integration of solar energy into our environment

Solar energy plays a decisive role in the energy transition. By 2050, solar power could cover at least a quarter of our energy needs. This requires a great deal of effort in a large number of areas. TNO has identified four areas where much can be gained in the coming period from the construction of PV systems: buildings, the physical infrastructure, on water and on land.

Dutch companies are world leaders in smart innovative applications for integrating solar energy into buildings and infrastructure. Together with companies and the authorities, TNO invests in innovative technologies and applications, for example through the Solar Energy Application Centre (SEAC). It is a question of generating solar energy on a large scale, in a way that is economically feasible and socially acceptable.


The image of dark, rectangular solar panels on roofs will disappear. Visible panels will soon be outdated and will quickly be replaced by invisible elements. These will no longer be placed on, but integrated into roofs, facades and windows. The new panels can be produced in any colour or shape, are flexible, invisible and their energy yield increases every year. Covering buildings on a large scale with these PV panels will bring us closer to the energy-neutral built environment. One of the advantages is that the electricity is used where it is generated, which means that expensive transport is not required.


Floating solar farms are, after buildings, a good second in the future generation of solar energy. Solar panels on water are easier to realise than on land, where space, regulations and social acceptance often stand in the way of construction. Our country is rich in lakes and basins where solar parks can be constructed without much inconvenience. The possibilities at sea are many times greater. There is plenty of space between wind turbines that are placed at a considerable distance from each other and where shipping is prohibited. The economic advantage here is that the solar energy generated can make use of the existing infrastructure of the wind farms. This makes the investment in the ‘plug socket at sea’ extra profitable.


In order to achieve a successful energy transition, we must also make use of the possibilities on land. Solar farms can be better integrated visually by integrating colour and print and by using double-sided solar panels. We will see the combination of solar farms with nature, recreation and agriculture much more often in the near future. The physical infrastructure, such as dikes, roadsides, road surfaces and noise barriers, will also be suitable for generating solar energy in the future. Previously, TNO and partners realised a unique solution: SolaRoad. In the near future we want to integrate solar panels into cars, buses, trains and even aircraft.

The large-scale application of solar energy also requires solutions for integration into the existing energy system. TNO is researching this and is working closely with industry to stimulate new business activity through innovative applications.

Towards ubiquitous Solar Energy

Peter Blokker

  • PV Modules & Applications


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