Photovoltaic Concrete: Is it the future thing?

The widespread adoption of photovoltaics remains one of those looming questions in architecture. Despite the growing prevalence of PV-systems all of over the world, many onlookers are eager to see much, much more and at a much faster rate. With the operation of buildings accounting for almost 40% of the world’s overall energy consumption, the platform for energy reduction is inconceivably large, and as a result, expediency is key.

Aside from politics, issues that have historically slowed the sweeping integration of solar panels include their imposing aesthetic appearance and their steep costs. As a result, researchers are not only challenged with creating photovoltaic iterations that are incredibly efficient, but also cheaper and aesthetically pleasing. This has resulted in a large move towards building integrated systems, which harness photovoltaics as replacements for conventional building materials, such as roofs and façades, rather than as add-on elements. The ongoing mastery of these technologies will play a key role in the common adoption of photovoltaics throughout architecture.

One recent high-profile example includes Tesla’s solar roof tiles, which look astonishingly like everyday, non-photovoltaic roof tiles. Elon Musk’s goal with this preeminent product, which went into production last year, was to create an attractive photovoltaic roof replacement method that could accommodate a wide array of architectural styles. Tesla achieved this by producing tiles out of tempered glass, with a color film and microscopic louvers that allow light to pass through to the Panasonic-made solar cells. According to Tesla, the high-performance glass is just as tough as steel.

Tesla is not the only company channeling their capacity into these sorts of developments. Several recent advancements in photovoltaic construction signal that energy-generating concrete could play a larger role in the future of architecture. Two cases in particular, stand out in their recent contributions to the burgeoning field of photovoltaic concrete.