EPFL coordinates Be-Smart, an EU research project that aims to boost the expansion of integrated photovoltaic energy in buildings by reducing costs by 75%.

This solar panel system for buildings has great advantages in terms of cost reduction.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) supervises the project Be smart. Fifteen partners are participating, including research institutes, construction companies and European architects.

The research consortium seeks to design multifunctional solar panels that embellish the facades of buildings and can also be used for insulation or soundproofing.

Integrated solar panels provide heat and electricity from the same building. When using air as a heat recovery medium, thermal energy can be used as long as it is in low temperature applications.

In essence, the panels will have two functions. The first would be to train part of the building structure and the second will be a clean energy source.

Cost of integrated solar panels.

The first premise we are working on is that if they are intended for use as building materials, a drastic reduction in the cost of solar panels. In this way, competitive manufacturing conditions are created.

The photovoltaic technology in which it is studied is developed with materials that can ensure a useful life of 30 to 50 years, since they will be integrated into buildings.

Advantages of multifunctional panels.

  • Production and storage of clean electrical energy once the building is constructed.
  • Greater sustainability for cities.
  • Using a building material with return on investment.
  • Better quality of life for citizens.
  • Building owners will reduce their electricity bills.

Where to place integrated photovoltaic technology?

  • Roofs (skylights or tiles).
  • Facades (windows, cladding and walls).
  • External systems integrated into the building (for example, balcony handrails or methods of protection).

The use of photovoltaic facades is developing rapidly, in part thanks to pioneering technology developed by EPFL and CSEM. But we need to make this technology more accessible so that it can be widely used and not just in specific projects. It is now possible to construct or renovate a building by integrating photovoltaic elements. In Switzerland, more than 10,000 roofs have already been built in this way, with innovative solar panels available in different shapes and colors. However, adoption of this solution is slow, especially since it increases construction costs.

Laure-Emmanuelle Perret-Aebi, project coordinator.

The use of photovoltaic technology for buildings is growing rapidly, but only for very specific projects. Our current situation requires it to be of massive use but we still find the brake on the initial investment, which remains high despite the advances.

More information: www.besmartproject.eu