Landmark solar thermal rooftop unveiled in Australia

One of the first solar PV thermal rooftop systems in the world has been unveiled today at a house in the suburb of Glebe, Sydney, Australia. To mark the occasion, Australia’s parliamentary secretary to the Federal Minister for Industry, Bob Baldwin, officially launched the system, which is the first in the world to combine thin film solar panels with thermal capabilities.

Completed at a cost of AUS$5 million (US$4.7 million), the project has been produced by Australian steel manufacturer BlueScope, with expert assistance from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which granted $2.3 million for the project.

The landmark rooftop combines typical building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) with building integrated photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) materials to create a roofing system that can produce both heat and solar electricity.

In utilizing a number of proven technologies such as thin film solar cells, the BIPV and BIPV-T hybrid is seen as an innovative way to develop cost-effective roofing solutions that call upon the expertise of Australia’s steel roofing industry as well as its solar PV sector.

Billed by ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht as "an exciting new renewable energy solution that combines steel roofing with cutting-edge thin film solar panels," the Sydney rooftop is seen as the first of its kind to really commercialize the two technologies, and it is hoped it can pave the way for future installations of this type.

"The old corrugated steel roof on this house in Glebe has been completely replaced with the first integrated PV thermal system in Australia, generating reliable renewable energy for the residents," added Frischknecht. BlueScope replaced the roof completely, adding the thin film cells and thermal duct system, which delivers warm and cool air to the house, depending on the setting.

The steel company has explored ways to reduce costs through improved roofing designs using BIPV, and believes that BIPV-T is the most cost-effective way to build in energy efficiency. The technology can be used for residential, commercial and industrial markets.

"This is a great display of Australian ingenuity and an example of industry leveraging government funding to make breakthroughs that may lead to advanced manufacturing and export opportunities," said Bob Baldwin during the roof’s launch.