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Sustainability stories from 3A Composites: The contemporary urban power station


Imagine generating electricity exactly where it is needed! Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But it is actually a real challenge in cities. Roof areas tend to be rather small compared to the vertical surfaces covered by façades and their value as potential outdoor space too important. And the amount of energy yielded by conventional building façades is simply not enough.

But now a team of scientists from the Institute of Architecture at HTWK Leipzig have become involved – they want to turn this situation around and bring PV into dense, urban spaces using their solar façades.

The team, led by Frank Hülsmeier, HTWK professor in Leipzig, has worked in cooperation with 3A Composites to develop an energy-producing façade using ALUCOBOND® tray panels. The geometry of the panels is three-dimensional and silicon half-cells adhere onto their upwardly inclined surfaces.

The first company building featuring this façade has been standing for some time in Bad Rappenau. 400 PV modules are spread over two hundred ALUCOBOND® tray panels, all around the building, and they produce a total of 10,000 kWh per year. Enough, for instance, to supply two four-person households with electricity all year round.

A digital, parametric design process was needed to achieve this. Specially developed software calculates the optimal façade to produce the best light yield and, in so doing, the highest electricity yield for each and every location, compass direction and building. This obviously means that every façade has to be different; no location, no building shell can be the same as the next.

But, they do have one thing in common: they are all made of ALUCOBOND®, folded into lightweight but very strong factory-assembled tray panels. Folding technology coupled with intelligent design help to minimise any self shading between the modules and maximise the energy yield.

Using computer controlled systems, ALUCOBOND® can be cut to precise sizes, folded into a wide variety of shapes, bonded with PV modules and easily assembled.

In recognition of the exemplary way the Leipzig HTWK research group has implemented new technologies in practical, concrete applications and, by so doing, created real added value for climate and environmental protection, the group has been awarded 3rd place in the Reallabore Innovation Award 2022 special sustainability prize category.

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