SolarBEAT, the outdoor test facility for BIPV

SolarBEAT (Solar Building Elements Application Testing) is a test facility of TNO and Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Building-integrated solar energy products and systems are tested on our site 24/7 all year round, both for generating electricity and heat. As such, we play a crucial role in the development and roll-out of solar energy in the Dutch and European Energy transition.

SolarBEAT test facility

Explaining the SolarBEAT test facility and solar laminates from glass manufacturer Pilkington

Not every roof is suitable for traditional solar panels. They are also not always aesthetically desirable. Building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) offers great opportunities in that perspective, for instance in the form of solar panels integrated in roofing and façade panels. With this in mind, TNO and TU/e founded SolarBEAT in 2014.

Innovative technologies

At SolarBEAT, we test components of installations such as PV modules, solar collectors, combinations (PVT), string and micro-inverters, power optimisers and batteries. We also take a closer look at the performance of complete solar power and heating systems. This involves improving innovative technologies and applications and developing completely new ones in cooperation with architects, construction companies, developers and installers.

Overview SolarBEAT test facility
Overview SolarBEAT test facility

Yield and robustness

We carry out the tests in real life conditions - outdoor. Products and systems are continuously monitored for yield and robustness, in relation to solar irradiance and weather conditions. All this is done using highly accurate measuring equipment, all year round and 24 hours a day. This provides valuable information to optimise and validate performance. This allows manufacturers to maximise business cases and introduce proven innovative technology.

Advanced infrastructure

With the contemporary solar and weather measuring station, we measure, with more than 1,000 sensors, solar irradiance, temperature, thermal insulation and energy yield. In addition, SolarBEAT has a complete thermal infrastructure for research on solar thermal systems, including heat pumps, buffer vessels and independent hot water flow. The results are stored in a secure central database. Confidential project data can only be accessed by authorised persons via a web portal.

Research using SolarBEAT weather station
Research using SolarBEAT weather station

Solar façades and roof tiles

SolarBEAT's home base is the TU/e campus in Eindhoven. On the roof and façades of the Vertigo building, scientists and companies continuously test and monitor many types of integrated solar energy technologies (BIPV) and their applications, including solar windows, solar façades, balcony fences and solar roof tiles. For example, SolarBEAT supported company Solarge to develop its sustainable lightweight plastic solar panels and company Soluxa test coloured solar panels for application on building façades.

Higher level

Another of SolarBEAT's partners is international glass manufacturer Pilkington. This company created a double-glazed BIPV window. Solar blinds are integrated in the front two layers. SolarBEAT is testing the yield of several variants of blinds, varying in colour and coating, solar cell technology and solar cell coverage. In another project, TNO is working with several partners on alternative barrier films for solar cells. SolarBEAT tests these on small solar cells and compares lab results with outdoor measurements. However, the scalability of the hardware also enables precision measurements on smaller and larger solar cells. Here, we use measuring equipment developed by Dutch company ReRa Solutions.

Solar thermal system
Solar thermal system

Storage systems

David Out, site coordinator SolarBEAT & PV system engineer at TNO: 'For zero-emission buildings, buffering solar power and solar heat is crucial, as the sun doesn't always shine. That’s why we are also researching various storage systems. One example is the salt battery from Cellcius, a spin-off of TU/e and TNO.

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'Together with construction company Emergo, we are testing within a complete system, including heat pump and buffer vessels. In doing so, we simulate the use of an average household. This way, we help Cellcius optimise this battery to make it a commercial success.'

David Out

Site coordinator SolarBEAT & PV system engineer at TNO

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