The largest commercial solar façade in Europe
Mat Burgess is a Chartered Engineer and New Product Development Manager with Solarcentury, Europe’s leading solar energy company specialising in building integrated solar electric and solar thermal technologies.
Founded in 1988, it has been responsible for a large part of the growth in solar panel usage in the UK and is now focused on innovation and product development in integrated solar technologies; such as solar electric roof tiles.
The company worked on a £5.5 million project to turn Manchester’s CIS Tower, a noted local landmark, into the largest commercial solar façade in Europe.
As part of the buildings refurbishment, the design team developed a weatherproof cladding which incorporated photovoltaic modules. The cost of incorporating the technology was offset against the projected cost of replacing the traditional mosaic tiles that had previously wrapped the Tower.
The 7,244 80W PV cells, which cover the Tower’s entire surface, were manufactured by Sharp to Solarcentury’s designs. The renewable energy they generate saves the equivalent of 100 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The CIS Tower project is one of the biggest solar installations in the UK and demonstrates how new PV technology can be easily incorporated into building practice.
Extending commerical solar power
Contrary to popular belief, light levels in the UK are sufficient to make photovoltaic cells viable throughout the country, with photovoltaics generating power even on cloudy days. In addition, solar energy works well in built-up urban areas (unlike wind turbines) and can be retro-fitted to existing buildings and houses relatively cheaply, to produce truly local power.
Proponents such as Mat believe that Britain’s uptake of solar technology would increase dramatically were we to incentivise the market with a feed-in tariff, as is the case in Germany, which has 200 times the solar capacity of the UK.