New technology offers architects a sea of creative opportunities to tackle climate crisis in a beautiful way
Soltech is making waves with its innovative technology to integrate solar cells into aesthetic solar panels. The company has been working on this major milestone since 1989. The technology is now fully on point, bringing a major revolution for architects and building owners. "We can now turn any product, vehicle or infrastructure into a solar panel that also looks aesthetically pleasing. Just think of facades, noise walls along motorways, bicycle paths, terraces, balustrades, cars and trucks," lists Bas van de Kreeke, CEO of Soltech. This milestone was celebrated with the official inauguration of a solar façade in the form of a work of art, showing a photo of the old mining site from the 'Memory of Genk' collection. Jo Brouns, Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation, this afternoon attached the last solar panel of the artwork, which is located against SOLTECH's new building at Thor Park in Genk.
Soltech was founded in 1989, as a spin-off from IMEC, and was already a pioneer in solar panels back then. Since 2021, serial entrepreneur Bas van de Kreeke puts his shoulders under the company as CEO, together with investment companies LRM, NUHMA and RSQ Investors as well as industrial partners Hegge and AGC. In recent years, Soltech grew to become an expert in producing customized solar panels and panels with greater added value. "For example, we build customized photovoltaic modules for specific architectural applications," explains Bas van de Kreeke. "This ranges from (ventilated) facades, canopies and window glass to modules that have their application in Vehicle Integrated photovoltaics (VIPV), Infrastructure Integrated photovoltaics (IIPV) and Product Integrated Photovoltaics (PIPV)."
"Why put fields, seas and mountains full of ugly panels when we can integrate solar cells into existing surfaces?"
Bas van de Kreeke, CEO Soltech
New production plant in Genk
So although Integrated PhotoVoltaics is still very much in the innovation sphere, Soltech is now technically ready to work with architects to tackle the climate crisis in a beautiful way. "Why put fields, seas, and mountains full of ugly panels when we can integrate solar cells into existing surfaces? With our technology, we can turn anything into a solar panel, so the solar panel potential is huge. Our aesthetic solar panels are also an economically and technically sound link in the energy transition and circular economy. We, therefore, nurture international ambitions."
To realize those strong growth ambitions, a new production plant of 4,000m² of production space and 1,000m² of office space at Thor Park in Genk is currently being finalized. "It involves a total investment of 11 million euros, about half of which is planned for the construction of new machinery," explains Bas van de Kreeke. "In addition, the Flemish government provides a strategic transformation support of 427,000 euros for the purchase of machines and for training the operators." In mid-June, Soltech anticipates moving its current production facility in Tienen to Genk's Thor Park.
Flemish Minister for Innovation Jo Brouns: 'Flanders is an absolute top region in terms of innovation and that is exactly what Soltech is promoting here today. We can be proud of the applications this new site will be able to bring to the construction of solar panels.' In doing so, Minister Brouns continues to look at opportunities to give innovative technologies in solar energy a strong push. In doing so, he is looking at the European RepowerEU plan to protect strategic energy independence within Europe. 'Not only does Soltech convert pioneering technology into new practical applications, they also increase our strategic independence in the renewable energy sector. Thus confirming our place as a world player when it comes to the green transition. That is exactly what I also want to achieve in Flanders with RepowerEU.'
Official inauguration of artistic solar facade with photo print
Last Friday, Jo Brouns, Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation, paid a preliminary visit to Soltech's brand-new production plant. "We chose Thor Park as the new location because this sustainable and innovative site focuses on energy transition, smart manufacturing and smart city applications. Moreover, it is a hotspot where science, business, education and technology come together. Ideal to create a positive impact on the world of today and tomorrow with our innovative techniques," says Bas van de Kreeke.
During his visit, Minister Brouns also inaugurated a magnificent PV façade in the form of a work of art. On that solar facade of 12 metres by 7 metres, a photo of the old mining site here at Thor Park flaunts. It is a photo from the "Memory of Genk" collection provided to us by the Emile Van Doren Museum, supplemented by a close-up of miner Jean-Pierre Lavarini.
"With this imposing solar facade photo, we literally and figuratively establish the link between old and new energy, which is increasingly taking shape here at Thor Park. And in doing so, we simultaneously demonstrate that our aesthetic solar panels are fully on point and ready to conquer the world," concludes Bas van de Kreeke.
Soltech is a Belgian company with production facilities located in Tienen. It was founded in 1989 as a spin-off from IMEC and was a pioneer in the field of solar panels or photovoltaics (PV). In 1989, we were already designing stand-alone photovoltaic systems. 20 years ago, we reached a milestone with the construction of the first grid-connected photovoltaic roof in Belgium. Our focus is on innovation. This enables us to produce customized solar panels and panels with greater added value. Soltech makes customized photovoltaic modules for specific architectural applications - such as (ventilated) facades, canopies, and window glass - but also modules that have their application in Vehicle Integrated photovoltaics (VIPV), Infrastructure Integrated photovoltaics (IIPV) and Product Integrated Photovoltaics (PIPV). The imminent move to the THOR park in Genk fully confirms our strong growth ambitions.