November 18, 2020

City of the Sun: how real estate assets can become energy sources / Forbes

As the International Energy Agency projects, the share of solar energy in the world power generation will increase up to 24% by 2040.  The owners of buildings can contribute to the realisation of these plans and reduction of fossil fuel-based energy production Solartek in Russia is already setting up the mass production of flexible solar panels that can be integrated into roofs and facades.

Solartek is part of the TechnoSpark Group of companies and the Fund for Infrastructural and Educational Programs of the RUSNANO Group. “Back in time, only the preconditions for the development of the solar energy industry started to emerge. Today we can state that the industry has come into its own” – Dmitry Krakhin, head of Solartek, says. This year Solartek started the construction of a new plant in Saransk. This plant will produce copper indium gallium di-selenide thin-film photoelectric cells, which will be assembled in flexible modules of the required sizes.

The plant will implement the proven Swiss technology by Midsummer, one of the leading companies in the sphere of flexible photovoltaics worldwide. Solartek will transfer the technology that has been used at several small plants internationally.

“Flexible solar cells that can be mounted on the existing buildings and buildings under construction is one of the most rapidly developing market segments in terms of solar power. Technology breakthroughs in the sphere of photovoltaics allow for the integration of solar panels in such places where it was impossible only some time ago, such as on unexploited roofs, facades, windows” – Ruslan Titov, deputy head of the Fund for Infrastructural and Educational Programs of the RUSNANO Group, explains – “And we have been systematically developing the branch of non-silicon flexible photovoltaics in Russia following the only possible way: first we transfer the technology and localise the production then proceed with the technology upgrade and scaling phase following the needs of the growing market and start exporting immediately after we launch our first plant.”

According to our plan, the first modules and cells for solar panels will be manufactured in Saransk in 2021.  As of now, we are getting the workshops ready. . A start-up of a hi-tech production is a rather complex engineering project. According to Krakhin, they will start delivering the production equipment by the end of the year. The first stage of the plant will produce elements with an aggregate capacity of 5 MW (that is sufficient, for example, to mount solar panels on flat roofs of ten huge retailing facilities, such as Mega or Leroy Merlin), there is the possibility to double the aggregate capacity within the same worktop area. Then we are planning to start the production in other facilities, probably in the workshops of the construction materials manufacturers, with many of which Solartek is in close contact.

 


For example, Technonikol corporation, the international leader in roofing, water-proof and heat-insulating materials production and Solartek have been testing the developments by Solartek for several years now.


In the frame of pilot projects, the Solartek solar panels were mounted on the roofs of Technonikol office building and of the production facilities in Ryazan. “here are four variations of solar power systems in total, the difference is in the type of cells and fixation elements. Now we are actively searching for the optimal configurations for further mass production. It is not just for demonstration purposes. Our goal is to have a solar panel roof of a factory building within our product line” – Dmitry Krakhin says.

The further the technology of solar panels is developed and implemented into urban everyday life, the more economically justified it becomes. The price for solar panels of any types globally significantly dropped over the past few years, as the efficiency has improved and the prime cost of one kilowatt decreased. We also got many alternatives to conventional silicon-based panels.  Small weight and thickness, high efficiency and affordability of new cell create new niches for their use. For example, in the segment of embedded photovoltaics, several research groups and companies in Europe and the USA have achieved impressive results.

Photo by Forbes

As compared to conventional solar power systems with silicon-based cells that due to their weight can not be mounted onto any roof, the new technology requires nine times less mass to generate 1kW of power: only 3 kg per 1 sq.m One module thickness is 2 mm so that the solar panel looks like a layer of the roofing and not as a foreign object. A person can step on them without any worries so there are no obstacles for  maintenance service. Optical sensitivity is better as compared to classical silicon panels so even during cloudy days more energy can be generated.

 


Panels made of thin-film photovoltaic cells are easy to mount and dismount, they can be detached and leased (Solartek developed special fixation elements that do not damage solar modules of the roof).


Who are the potential customers? “We see our client as a qualifies consumer who plans their energy consumption far ahead and is ready to invest in it” – head of Solartek says. First of all, they are businesses located in large buildings with flat roofs that are continuous and not subject to any additional load. Such as retail facilities, warehouses, factories. Another category of promising customers is the developers of office buildings. More and more tenants pay attention to the concept of providing energy by request at no extra cost of redundant energy capacities. Besides, that is also important for big real estates developers and urban authorities.

The concept of a zero-emission house is gaining popularity worldwide Krakhin believes that thin-film solar panels are a key element in implementing this concept as with them more surfaces of a building are fit for power generation: panels can be attached not only to the roofs but also to facades, awnings and in the future even to the windows.

 


We are developing solutions that thanks to their aesthetic value and efficiency help the designers and power engineers to find a compromise, states the head of Solartek.


Source: Forbes

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