New project puts solar cells in building materials


The new project PV Opmaat sees researchers at imec and EnergyVille working to integrate solar power systems into common building materials

Solar power in your curtains

Staff at energy research institute EnergyVille, nanotechnology research centre imec and Hasselt University (UHasselt) are co-operating with Dutch colleagues to look into new ways to integrate solar cells in building materials. The project PV Opmaat (Customised PV) has received a grant of €3 million for three years from the European Union.

The PV Opmaat project kicked off yesterday on UHasselt’s Diepenbeek campus and at imec. The provinces of Limburg and Flemish Brabant are financially supporting the project.

Solar energy is mostly utilised via panels on roofs, but researchers are increasingly looking to integrate solar cells in other building materials that are exposed to sunlight such as roof tiles, wall panels, windows and even curtains. The challenges are fitting Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) panels into materials without affecting the look of a building, making them affordable to produce and ensuring that they are energy-efficient. 

There are already BIPV panels on the market, but they are not well enough adapted to the requirements of the building sector. The Flemish and Dutch partners will develop new methods to produce solar cells that are customised to the demands of the construction industry.

“We want to address the needs of the growing market in renovations and in improving the energy-efficiency of houses and buildings,” said  professor Michaël Daenen of UHasselt. The ready-made solutions, which are more environment-friendly and energy-efficient, should make the solar panel industry in Flanders more competitive.

Photo courtesy Solar Power World

Sustainable energy

The five main renewable energy sources in Flanders are biomass, biogas, wind energy, solar energy and water power. The renewable energy sector has grown sharply in recent years, with wind and solar energy production especially on the rise.
Agency - The Flemish Energy Agency is responsible for implementing the government’s sustainable energy policies. Its central tasks are to promote rational energy use and environmentally friendly energy production.
Green energy certificates - One of the principal measures to promote sustainable energy are the certificates the Flemish energy regulator (Vreg) awards for electricity generated by renewable energy sources. Since the regulations were tightened in 2012, investments in renewable energy installations have declined.
Obstacles - According to the Flemish Energy Agency, the main challenges in local renewable energy production are the region’s short coast, limited height differences and direct sunlight, and high population density.

new wind turbines created in Flanders in 2013

6 030

million kilowattage of green energy in 2012


percentage of green energy used in Flanders in 2012