By integrating solar cells into roof tiles, any roof can be converted into a photovoltaic system – without compromising the aesthetic or architectural integrity of a building.
Electricity generation by means of solar energy is becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland. According to the latest study by Swisssolar, solar power already accounts for more than 5% of the total demand in Switzerland. Between 2019 and 2020, almost 50% more photovoltaic systems were put into operation.
Traditional solar panels – the dilemma
Private households play a major role in this development. More and more homeowners want to make the switch to their own photovoltaic system on the roof and, in this way, cover a large part of their electricity needs themselves. But this can often present them with a dilemma… they want to produce solar energy, but traditional solar panels would ruin the architectural integrity of their house.
Developing unique solar tiles
John Morello, founder of Freesuns, found himself in exactly the same situation when he and his family moved into a new house with a distinct design. The roof was in bad shape and desperately needed renovation. Adding regular solar panels was not an option, however, because of the roof’s particular shape. Being an engineer and passionate about green technologies, Morello started developing his own solar tiles. Since 2016, the 4,000 tiles adorning his home have been generating over 20 MWh per year, exceeding their total annual household consumption.
Adaptation to any roof
With this proof of concept firmly in its pocket, the Freesuns start-up was born. A small team has been developing the idea ever since. Meanwhile, four different solar tiles are on the market, which, according to Freesuns, are more robust than normal roof tiles and much stronger than ordinary solar panels. The tiles can be adapted to any roof with variations in shape, colour, and size. Freesuns solar tiles open up new opportunities for buildings that may not be suitable for traditional solar panels owing to heritage protection, roof design or owner preference.
Coming up: copper-coloured tiles
In collaboration with solar energy experts from the EPFL and the Neuchâtel photovoltaic laboratory (CSEM), Freesuns is now tackling a new challenge: to create a copper-coloured tile that resembles those in many of Switzerland's protected village centres.