SwissINSO adds colour to building-integrated solar

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

In a 24 hour whirlwind trip to Switzerland, I visited the headquarters of technology start-up firm SwissINSO, where I was able to see first hand the development of a new technology that is set to bring more colour to the PV market, specifically the BIPV and solar thermal sector.

On 14 May, the company in collaboration with the Swiss Polytechnic Institute (EPFL) launched a new patented coating technology, which can be used to create solar panels in a variety of colours, upping the aesthetics in BIPV projects to a whole new level.

Following more than ten years of research and development and investments worth up to several millions of euros, SwissINSO in collaboration with EPFL, has finally brought the technology from a lab concept to commercialisation.

By using the innovative Kromatix technology, SwissINSO is now able to supply PV module manufacturers with a piece of opaque, coloured glass that can be integrated into any manufacturers’ modules — including thin-film, crystalline and solar thermal modules — without compromising on performance.

The technology is applied to glass by combining two different surface treatments. The inner side of the glass is subjected to a coloured nano-scale multi-layered treatment using a vacuum plasma process while another treatment is used to modify the glazing of the outer surface. The company explained that these treatments can prevent glare effects as well as remove the visibility of the technical components, such as the cells and wafers of PV or those in solar thermal units, which can normally be seen.

Speaking to PV-Tech, Rafic Hanbali, CEO of SwissINSO, explained that the technology would require “minimal interruption” to a module manufacturer’s production line. The coloured glass provided by SwissINSO is suitable for all types of modules and is incorporated into the module by the module manufacturer. Hanbali added that the technology could even be applied to glass produced by a manufacturer of their choice.

Product range and applications

The technology has been optimised for both solar thermal panels as well as PV modules. In terms of energy loss, SwissINSO claim that this could range between 0.5% and 15% depending on the colour.

At a media briefing held at the company’s headquarters, Hanbali said: “The energy loss will depend on the colour you choose. Virtually, we can have any colour except white and sparkling red. We can do sparkling red but we would lose too much efficiency.”

Moreover, the coloured panels can be used to make both solar thermal and PV units look the same, creating new opportunities for architectural design. For example, if integrated PV and solar thermal units were used side by side in one building, the coloured panels would make it difficult for an observer to tell them apart.

Hanbali commented: “For architectural integrity, they are homogeneous, you have the same thing. You wouldn’t know from the outside which is which.”

For façades, the company offers coloured glass for frameless PV modules. Hanbali said: “We can use them on new buildings or as a second skin on existing buildings, with any colour you want and no captors visible.”

Market potential

Since lab concept, SwissINSO’s goal was to create a “marketable product, and not just a product which is beautiful but you can do nothing with”, Hanbali said on the day of the launch.

In order to ensure it was a marketable product, the company carried out numerous industrial runs including tests that measured the durability of the coating, and the degradation of the colour over time.

The results? “The product is feasible in chain production,” Hanbali said. “The aesthetics are exactly the same, the optical properties and efficiency are even better than in the lab.”

But what about cost? This will surely be one of the most important deciding factors for the success of the product. 

According to SwissINSO, the additional cost for coloured PV panels is between US$0.12 and US$0.18 per watt peak for PV panels, and 5% to 10% more for solar thermal panels.

Explaining the range in cost, Hanbali said: “The cost is a chicken and an egg story. For any product and industry, if you want something to cost little, you have to produce a lot. But in order to produce a lot, the cost should be low. So where do you start?

“In PV, our panel will cost an additional US$0.12 to US$0.18 but if someone comes from a solar farm, let’s say it’s 100,000 panels for a 30MW project, the additional cost will be US$0.04 to US$0.05 or even lower. We took an average here, between US$0.12 and US$0.18 cents per watt. There is no way to be precise on figures unless you give me the project.”

With BIPV products already at the higher end of the cost scale, it is difficult to judge if in the current economic climate customers would be willing to part with the extra money.

According to EPFL research, more than 80% of architects would be willing to incorporate solar panels in their buildings if they are offered a good choice of colours and if the price was “reasonable”. In this case, a reasonable cost would be an additional 25%.

With the solar market suffering from overcapacity, many module manufacturers are looking for ways to boost their businesses. One such way, which SwissINSO is banking on to help its business to take off, is to help producers to differentiate their product through colour.

Another way is to go downstream. Hanbali said: “If you want to go downstream, and increase your PV and BIPV residential share, you have to offer something people will accept to put on their house or buildings.”

According to Hanbali, this is one of the key reasons why producers are interested in its technology.   

26 January 2022
Join this free webinar for our analysis of the growth of N-Type technology including; new capacity expansions and production output. We'll also be looking at the global manufacturing footprint with forecasts on how much product will be made outside of China this year and which companies are driving technology change across the crystalline silicon value chain.
23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.
8 March 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 March 2022
When it comes to storage, the US market exceeded a gigawatt of advanced energy storage installations (weighted towards lithium ion) at 1.46 GW, more than the previous six years in total! An exponential growth rate could see the market hit 7.5 GW p.a. by 2025. The summit will provide a wealth of content around this vital piece in the US power puzzle, with sessions dedicated to explore how companies are making money from batteries, the latest chemistries and their applications as they apply to different use-cases. We ask how investors can match ESG criteria to batteries and we will bring case studies of successful deployment and project execution onto the stage to examine how you can ensure your own projects are successful.
29 March 2022
Now in its 10th sell-out year, Large Scale Solar returns to Lisbon in 2022. We are excited to gather together face-to-face with the European solar industry as we provide unique and exclusive access to a powerful selection of the market's key stakeholders. Join this elite summit to find out how the market is maturing, which new markets are becoming more exciting, how technology is evolving and who's driving the market forward into the 2020s. Always senior, packed with developers, EPCs, utilities and investors this is the event for companies serious about European solar PV.

Read Next

January 25, 2022
Regulators in Nevada have paved the way for two solar-storage hybrid projects to replace a legacy coal power plant in the US state, approving their sale to utility NV Energy.
January 25, 2022
The Czech Republic’s largest utility, ČEZ Group, should scale up its domestic solar PV portfolio over the next decade instead of pursuing new nuclear power plants, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has said.
January 25, 2022
SK Ecoplant, part of the South Korean conglomerate SK Group, has signed a US$200 million joint venture (JV) agreement with Vietnamese rooftop specialists Nami Solar for the development of 250MW of rooftop solar in Vietnam over the next four years.
PV Tech Premium
January 25, 2022
European solar power purchase agreement (PPA) prices can be expected to level off this year following a turbulent end to 2021 as the market undergoes a shift in the balance of power to the seller side.
January 25, 2022
Indian PV encapsulant and backsheet manufacturer RenewSys has brought its encapsulant production capacity up to 3GW with the commissioning of a new line in Bengaluru, India, with the company eventually targeting 11GW of capacity through a “phased manner”.
January 25, 2022
A consortium including Saudi solar developer ACWA Power has inaugurated the 500MW Ibri 2 solar project in Oman, which becomes the country’s largest utility-scale solar project to date.  

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
January 26, 2022
Free Webinar
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal