530 m² of organic photovoltaic film installed on the roofs of a secondary school in France will produce 23.8 MWh of electricity, which is equivalent to the annual consumption of five houses and 15 to 20% of the school’s electricity needs. The electricity will be consumed by the secondary school. It is the world’s largest organic photovoltaic installation.
The endeavour was made possible by Laborelec, the research and expertise centre devoted to electrical technologies of the Engie Group (French industrial energy group), based in Belgium, and German start-up Heliatek which makes the organic photovoltaic films.
The organic film, made up of layers of organic cells, stacked on a flexible PET film, resembles long strips of thick paper glued to the zinc roof. It is suited to lightweight, flat or curved roofs on which traditional solar panels cannot be installed. It is also faster to install and is easily recycled. It is unlimited in length, and can therefore be adapted and optimised to fit the surface to be covered.
Laying the lightweight film (1 kg/m²) does not require any changes to be made to the roof or the structure, and the film can also be placed vertically (on the façade).
It can also be installed extremely quickly, as the film can be unfurled like a carpet. It took two weeks to install the film on the secondary school, while it would have taken over three months to install a similar system with traditional solar panels.
The film remains a supplement to traditional solar panels. Its yield is four times lower than traditional solar panels, but it should improve in the next couple of years. Its cost is currently three times higher, but will decrease when it is mass-produced in 2019.