2 May 2024

Solaxess : Making solar buildings more attractive

With its nanotechnology-based coloured film compatible with every kind of photovoltaic panel, Solaxess is set to be a major player in the aesthetic integration of solar power into buildings. This technology found nowhere else in the world heralds the rollout of photovoltaic energy on a massive scale.

The technology developed by Solaxess brings uniform colour to any photovoltaic panel. The polymer film it has developed – at the cutting edge of BIPV (building-integrated photovoltaics) – uses nanotechnology to provide solar panel manufacturers with an easy way to integrate their panels into buildings. “Our film can be used with every kind of panel and all types of cell technology,” says Sébastien Eberhard, founder of Solaxess. This was an essential requirement that took a great deal of effort at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), where Solaxess developed the technology. “We make it possible to fit photovoltaic panels absolutely anywhere that is relevant on a building, without changing the face of our towns and villages,” adds Sébastien Eberhard. A major plus point when it comes to aesthetic considerations and which furthermore avoids creating heat islands generated by large numbers of black panels in city centres.

This technology unique to Solaxess, protected internationally by seven patents, turns solar panels into construction elements for building roofs and façades that can even be used on protected historical buildings. In partnership with the manufacturer 3S Swiss Solar Solutions, which specialises in integrated photovoltaic modules, Solaxess successfully fitted terracotta-coloured solar tiles on the roof of a protected historical building in Zurich. “You can’t tell that they are solar panels,” says Sébastien Eberhard.

In addition to being attractive and easy to integrate, these coloured films present obvious logistical advantages for panel manufacturers: it is much easier to transport and store rolls of film than bulky pallets of fragile coloured glass. This technology is already mature, with large-scale manufacture beginning in 2022. CHF 15 million have been invested in research and industrial production. The current production capacity is around one million m2 of film per year. This is set to rise to meet market demand, which will make it cheaper in the future. The current average cost of a coloured solar panel is CHF 50 per m2 more than a conventional black panel – a figure that varies between manufacturers.

Solaxess is already selling its nanotechnology films to photovoltaic panel manufacturers in Europe and (to a lesser extent) China, and the company has also set its sights on South Korea and Brazil. “Worldwide, one billion m2 of photovoltaic panels are installed every year,” says Sébastien Eberhard. “So this market has huge potential, and we want to be a partner of choice in the aesthetic integration of solar panels into buildings.”