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Andrea Spedicato

Making the sun the world’s most widely used energy source is perhaps an ambitious aspiration, but it is probably the right one. Every year, the photovoltaic industry takes many steps forward, making this technology more mature and diversified.

In fact, a large deployment of photovoltaic installations is expected in Europe in the coming years. Photovoltaic electricity is the renewable energy technology with the greatest scope for cost reduction and efficiency gains. As such, it is expected to make a significant contribution to achieving the EU’s target for zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This is a situation that is also occurring in countries such as Italy. This results in the emergence of several development paths including, on the one hand, a trend towards increasingly high building-integrated solar PV (BIPV) and, on the other hand, a race towards large-scale plants that can meet a growing share of global demand.

This is a task that is not easy, considering that most countries are still making heavy use of non-renewable energy. However, it is estimated that around 83% of households in Europe could install solar photovoltaic panels on their roofs to provide their own electricity.

In the BIPV sector, Gruppo STG can boast numerous case studies of photovoltaic integration in landscape and cultural constraints. This Italian company specializes in the design and production of photovoltaic solutions, inspired by the principles of sustainable development and the study and application of innovative technologies.

In fact, they are aiming for ever more innovative solutions in this field, as demonstrated by their latest installation on the island of Certosa in Venice, where they have managed to overcome very strict constraints. It should be noted that combining photovoltaic innovation while protecting a city’s artistic or cultural heritage is no longer impossible.

The Perfect Example Of Integration On Certosa Island

Photo: Roof in Certosa Island. Source: Gruppo STG

The example of Certosa Island is paradigmatic. It is a rehabilitation and recovery program on one of the islands of Venice. There, Gruppo STG, through its Solmonte and EnergyGlass, divisions, focused not only on the research, installation and design of solutions for the integration of photovoltaic solar energy in buildings, but also LIPV (Landscape Integrated Photovoltaic), i.e., integration into the natural landscape, paying particular attention to the context in which they are installed.

This project earned Gruppo STG the Special Prize for Solar Architecture in Valuable Contexts 2020, awarded by In/Arch.At this location, we have built three roof-integrated photovoltaic systems, converting more than 1,110 square meters of opaque surfaces into active roofs using the BiPV system with colored photovoltaic tiles.

In this case, the color offered a chromatic effect similar to that of terracotta. In this way, they managed to obtain a recovery of the well-exposed tones in complete chromatic consonance with the other tones, the surrounding buildings, and the rest of the lagoon. Thus, the construction as a whole responds perfectly to the need to guarantee aesthetic continuity and perfect architectural integration.

Solar Panels On Various Architectural Elements

The intention to switch to renewable energies has taken root and is unstoppable. In fact, this new conception of energy production also extends to households or even to charging points for electric vehicles.

At the heart of our corporate philosophy is innovation and the integration of photovoltaics in all the contexts in which it can be placed. In this sense, we are working towards multiple solutions in which the charging of electric vehicles is combined with photovoltaic systems that are aesthetically harmonious with the surrounding landscape.

For example, we are working on a photovoltaic bank combined with a photovoltaic canopythat creates an island for charging electric vehicles in urban areas, without sacrificing aesthetics or integration.

How To Solve Electric Vehicle Charging?

At the moment, photovoltaic technology is not yet able to fully satisfy the electrical charging needs of a conventional car park or a residential rooftop. Therefore, we must try to improve the dialogue between consumption and instantaneous energy production to maximize the benefit of photovoltaics through the use of wisely dimensioned electrical storage.

For Gruppo STG, this remains the key to meeting the immediate energy needs for recharging electric cars. This is precisely where the greatest difficulty in this work lies, which is finding the ideal combination between photovoltaic production and electrical charging needs in terms of physical space and time.

That is why we are currently working on developing a more affordable modular parking model. This is because it attaches importance not only to the integration into the landscape, but also to the affordability of the product. This is a key issue, because if you want to increase the penetration of photovoltaic installations in a particular area, you have to take into account the economic capacity of the final user.

A modular parking project fits into a purely urban or residential context. However, it could be extrapolated to other environments. At the same time, more structurally concentrated solutions are being developed for the recharging of electric bicycles in urban contexts, and also in more remote areas, such as mountain parks.

The most advanced Italian regions in this respect are Lombardy, Veneto, Lazio and Tuscany. However, the distribution of photovoltaic installations associated with sustainable mobility is well spread throughout Italy thanks to the incentives linked to the Superbonus 110%. 

​​Recycling Materials: An Ambitious Challenge

Foto: The Solar Trash Wave. Fuente: International Renewable Energy Agency. Electricity Data Browser. Global Solar Atlas.

After the technological development challenge of creating more efficient and higher power solar panels, the most difficult issue facing the industry today is recycling. As is the case with electric vehicle batteries,solar panel recycling is fundamental to a healthy photovoltaic industry.

As far as Gruppo STG is concerned, they are very sensitive to the issue of recovery and sustainability of their modules. To this end, a research project is underway to use antimony-free glass which, at the time of disposal, allows the glass to be fully recovered, a part of the module that until now could not be recycled. The International Renewable Energy Agency projects that large amounts of annual waste are anticipated by the early 2030s and could total 78 million tonnes by the year 2050.

Recycling the raw materials used in the entire energy production process would allow this activity to be included in the circular economy and thus ensure a constant and sustainable flow of activity.