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Denmark is home to the school with the world’s largest solar facade

Dodicimila piastrelle colorate per la facciata solare del Copenhagen International School che producono il 50 per cento dell’energia necessaria

The facade of the Copenhagen International School, Denmark, is covered by 12,000 solar glass panels, making it the world’s largest solar facade. The panels are able to produce 300 MW hour of electricity per year, meeting half the energy needs of the school.

The panels are coloured by light

Besides being an efficient energy solution, the solar facade has redefined the style of the building, turning it into an architectural work. The colour of the solar glass panels is sea green, the same of Copenhagen’s symbol: Andersen’ mermaid, which welcomes tourist in the Danish capital. The unique sea-green hue of the panels was created by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne (EPFL) after more than a decade of development.

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By using the process of light interference, the researchers achieved the solar glass panels’ distinctive colour. This effect can be observed in soap bubbles, in the wings of some butterflies and in the layer of oil on a water surface. “The iris effect creates a colourful rainbow on a very thin layer. We used the same principle and adapted for glass,” said Jean-Louis Scartezzini, the head of the Solar Energy and Building Physics Laboratory (LESO-PB).

The process is only appearantly easy, as controlling the light reflected by solar panels in order to produce one single colour without reducing the energy efficiency is rather challenging. Indeed, it took 12 years of research to realise the panels. The researchers developed special filters that determine which wavelengths of light will be reflected as visible colour, while the rest of the sunlight is absorbed by the solar panel and converted into energy. Without using any pigments, but ensuring that only certain wavelengths are reflected, the solar panels are brick red, royal blue, golden yellow or sea green.

Building renovation for energy efficiency

Old buildings, built at a time when energy efficiency wasn’t much considered, are a robust part of Europe’s heritage, and their renovation is an ongoing debated issue all over Europe. On average, the renovation rate of EU buildings is about 1 per cent per year. This means that it would take 100 years to renovate all European old buildings. In order to accelerate this process, which would have positive effects in terms of energy efficiency, environment protection and a better health for citizens, the European Union has launched the Climate-KIC initiative. The aim is connecting universities and companies in order to develop innovative technologies in the energy efficiency field and create building materials that allow decarbonising buildings.

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Facades that adapt to buildings’ needs

The technology developed by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne is not the only one in Europe that combines building renovation and energy efficiency. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, developed an “adaptive solar façade” that can be installed on glass facades to produce energy in existing buildings. Panels allow sunlight to enter the building and, when necessary, can be moved and used to shade.

How old houses can become energy-neutral

The University of Technology in Delft, Netherlands, is testing a technology that works like a “second skin”. It uses prefabricated materials to be installed in buildings while people keep working and living in them. The first test of this technology has been carried out on a copy of a townhouse built in the 1960’s, demonstrating how these houses, which are energy-consuming, can become energy neutral.

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