Dutch Company Uses Ceramic Tiles to Build Energy-Generating Roof

Dutch firm ZEP BV has developed two types of ceramic roofing tiles that are equipped with solar cells. ZEP says its tiles are the world’s first solar roof tiles. While conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are large and conspicuous, solar-integrated building materials are now being heralded as the next generation of solar technology. ZEP BV claims its tiles are the fastest and least expensive way to install PV systems on tile roofs.

ZEP BV's roof tiles can turn any tile roof into an energy generation system. Photo courtesy ZEP BV.
ZEP BV’s roof tiles can turn any tile roof into an energy generation system. Photo courtesy ZEP BV.

The roofing tiles come in two colors, red and black; and the solar cells are invisible, which means the tiles don’t interfere with the aesthetic of the building. That means the solar tiles can be used on a variety of buildings and structures without detracting from the setting.

“A lot of people have been waiting for this,” said Joost De Graaf of ZEP. “For instance people who think solar panels on their rooftops are ugly.”

The tiles have been approved by several architecture supervision committees in the Netherlands to be used to modernize iconic or historical buildings and neighborhoods. ZEP has outfitted the historic Priesnitz Hoeve farm with its black solar tiles, and will unveil the project officially later this week. The farm was built in 1870 in the Dutch town Rheden.

The small tile design also enables energy generation on roofs that aren’t suitable or large enough to support traditional rooftop photovoltaic panels. The small tiles can more easily accommodate different roofing structures, such as chimneys or skylights, for example. “This solar tile combines the shape of a roof tile with the benefits of solar panels,” De Graaf said. “This is the solar energy of the future.”

De Graaf said the company is installing its roof tiles on homes in the UK, Denmark and Scandinavia, and Germany.

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