Reconciling solar energy and heritage preservation

EPFL researchers have developed a method to assess the aesthetic impact of solar panels on buildings and to set objective criteria for where they should be placed. Some municipal governments could apply this method as early as next year. The researchers have just received the Innovator of the Year award in Sweden.

“We want to show that solar panels can be harmoniously integrated into their urban setting, even in fragile environments, as long as the necessary effort is made in terms of design and cost. If we fall short of that, it may be better to just postpone the work,” says Maria Cristina Munari Probst, an architect in EPFL’s Solar Energy and Building Physics Laboratory (partner of the SCCER FEEB&D). “Inelegant solar installations end up turning away potential solar-power users. If done properly, however, they can further spur the growth of solar energy, and this will easily make up for their slightly higher cost.”

Together with engineer Christian Roecker, Probst designed an easy-to-use method for cantonal and municipal authorities in charge of planning and approving solar installations. How does it work? It allows the authorities to take local architectural constraints, such as historical districts, into account when analyzing where to install solar panels on existing buildings. This method should ultimately help reconcile heritage advocates and renewable energy supporters. On 16 November 2016, the authors won the Innovator of the Year award in Sweden for their work.

For more details, please visit EPFL’s website.