Definitely a success story. Enjoy the official video!
The TEDx program is a grassroots initiative created in the spirit of TED’s mission to research and discover “ideas worth spreading.” TEDx events are organized by passionate individuals who seek to uncover new ideas and share the latest research in their local areas that spark conversations in their communities.
That is why they reached out to Kameleon Solar’s CTO, Büşra Yılmaz, who has distinguished herself as an innovator in the field of colored BIPV (building-integrated photovoltaics).
The theme of TEDx Breda 2023 was “Why not…”. TEDxBreda stands for spreading and sharing revolutionary ideas that can change the world through inspiring and personal stories. By embarking on a journey of inspiration, innovation, and imagination, the mission of TEDx Breda was to challenge the status quo, push boundaries, and encourage everyone to embrace the power of bold ideas and limitless possibilities.
Something that resonates with Kameleon Solar’s mission of innovating colored PV technologies and creating colored and designed solar panels that do not look like solar panels and, therefore, can be beautifully integrated into the built environment.
Büşra Yılmaz inspired the audience with her personal story, and she spread her idea of making cities more sustainable by integrating colored solar panels into the buildings’ facades. Her vision coincides with Kameleon Solar’s mission of making solar beautiful: The Art of Solar! Because… Why not?
Please find below the transcript of the TED Talk “Coloring Cityscapes with BIPV for a Sustainable Future” by Büşra Yılmaz:
When I was a kid, I had a fascination with trees. I pretended that I could talk to them and they would talk to me in return, giving me wise advice. In fact, wherever we moved as a family, which was a lot, I would walk around and try to find a tree that became my favorite and befriend it. Perhaps I was a little weird, and perhaps I was a little lonely for my own sake. But this fascination made me appreciate nature and the human creations that mimic nature, or the technological developments that are inspired by nature. I appreciate any effort to create synthetic forms that blend in with nature. Nature is not only helping us to create art or inspire us to develop new technologies, but it also teaches us how to utilize our resources.
Even though we have a much broader definition of sustainability in the last couple of decades, our very first idea of sustainability was also very much bound to nature, more specifically forests. This German forester in 1804 first uttered the word “sustainability” and said, quote: “Every wise forest director has to have evaluated forest stands to utilize them to the greatest possible extent, but still in a way that future generations will have at least as much benefit as the living generation.” This quote is an excellent reminder to us that nature is a great compass for us as a society to show how to utilize our resources. When I graduated from chemical engineering, I had to make a decision to go for more heavy chemical industries or choose for more environmentally friendly path. Well, as you can imagine, I chose renewable energies as my next field.
My desire to stay close to art, design, and architecture stayed the same, but I didn’t know how to navigate towards that from any renewable energy field that I would pick from, until I saw this. This building is the reason why I’m standing here and sharing my story with you. This building made me very hopeful for a clean, colorful, sustainable future. During that realization, I was writing my thesis on this very subject, and then I worked in the field for a couple of years, then moved to the Netherlands to work with like-minded people, and eventually became a CTO in the same company. And you may ask what the subject is or what these colorful things are. So, let me elaborate.
As we got more populated as a human race, our surroundings started changing. There are more buildings around us than trees now. We slowly moved away from trees and found ourselves in packed cities instead. In today’s world, buildings and building construction sectors combined are responsible for one-third of total energy consumption and nearly 40% of total carbon dioxide emissions. So, if you were to live or work in any of these buildings and we want to make them self-sufficient in energy production, how would we do it? We have to think about these things, especially with the European Commission’s… European Union’s goal of reaching net zero by 2050. One of the first ideas that comes to mind is to add solar panels maybe on the roof, but let’s say… let’s see how much space we have here.
Unfortunately, not much just to make the picture clearer, the total area of the facades in the Netherlands is approximately 2200 square kilometers, which is roughly equivalent to 144,000 football fields. That is a huge area. And the solar installation capacity of the area is assumed to be a 58 gigawatt peak. Now, bear in mind that the solar installation capacity that we reached in the Netherlands last year was only an 18.8 gigawatt peak. So there is a huge potential that we can harvest here.
So let’s say we have a building that faces south. It looks like this. In this case we have at least two, in most cases, three façades that we could put solar panels on. When the sun slowly rises from the east, the east facade will pick up early sunrise to produce 30 to 40% more electricity than the flat roofs. Then the sun will move towards south, and the south façade will continue to work. And finally, the West facade will pick up the late hours of the day to produce electricity. Due to the angle of the sun, solar façades will produce 100% more in winter and less in summer, and way more in the early and late hours of the day. Well, this is important because this has a couple of advantages.
The first thing is, is that the peak of the power load curve, as we call it, the Duck Curve will be much flatter, meaning that we have more balance between energy production and energy demand during the day in the peak hours. And the second is that for any given reason, if you need a battery system to store the energy, you will need a smaller battery systems, which will also make your system cheaper, because your building will continue producing electricity throughout the day and throughout the year. But I… what I find the most remarkable thing about solar façades is that solar panel is the only building material that pays you back your investment. There is no other material that can do that for you.
All right. Now that we learned a little bit more on the importance of solar façades, that the rooftop solution is not enough, we also have to energize our buildings, there are still some important questions hovering above though. Do we want our cities, our living areas, to look like this, covered in black or blue, uninspiring, nice to look at? Can you imagine yourselves walking down the streets, surrounded by monotonous scenery, energized by what you see around you? Can you emulate nature’s way of blending in with the environment or appreciate its color for electricity production? Is there a way to combine what we learn from nature and apply it to our living areas to produce electricity while creating an esthetically pleasing environment?
The day I saw that blue building, I found the answer to my questions. Yes, there is a way, and it is called colored building-integrated photovoltaics, a.k.a. colored BIPV. Building Integrated Photovoltaics or BIPV is a general term that we use to define PV solutions that replace building elements. Building integration can be varied from cladding systems or curtain walls on the faces of the façade, or as a glazing system at the balconies for shading elements. We can even use it as carports to perhaps charge electric cars. The beauty of utilizing all these areas not only allows our buildings to be self-sufficient in power generation, but also empties our roof spaces for green roofs, which has a huge positive impact on habitat and water management in cities. Colored BIPV brings us closer to our sustainable energy goal, allowing every building to be self-sufficient powerhouses, and in the process unleashes our creative side.
But where does the color come from and how can we apply it to a solar panel? Well, a standard solar panel’s anatomy at the core is quite simple. We’ve got a front layer, which is in most cases in the building sector made of glass, to protect the solar cells from the environmental impact. And then we have a front encapsulation layer to glue the solar cells and again, protect them from the environment. And then we have the solar cells, of course, to produce electricity. Then another encapsulant layer at the back and finally a back layer, which again in most cases in the building sector, is made of glass. The technological developments on solar panels mainly focused on the encapsulation quality and solar cell efficiency in the last couple of decades. But I believe it is time, the technology is ready, so that we can take that knowledge and add joy and creativity to the solar panels.
But how do we do that? Well, there are many ways, of course, but we can choose different materials. So we can choose colored solar panel… solar cells, or we can modify the front glass with coating or printing. We can use solar encapsulant with color, or we can use special filters as an interlayer. As you can see, once you’ve figured out these techniques, there is an amount of joy, creativity, color, and design that you can add to a solar panel.
Well, it all sounds great so far, but when it is time to bring this technology into reality, things get more complicated. There are many parties involved in colored building integrated photovoltaic systems. Architects, designers, PV manufacturers, must do their parts, as well as the municipalities and local governments, to create incentives for such technologies. We should create an environment where colored BIPV solutions are taught more at universities to make it more common knowledge. PV research institutes should continue working on these technologies to make more effective ways to create colored BIPV solutions and work hand-in-hand with PV manufacturers to make it to reality. Research institutes also should work hand-in-hand with standardization bodies and standardization bodies must be aware of these techniques and make it clearer for the end user and PV manufacturers how to qualify.
But it all starts like this. It all starts with you. It all starts in a room like this with a conversation. It all starts with creating enough noise, increasing awareness, and spreading the word around to move forward quickly. Because with colored building integrated photovoltaics, we can give homage to our great painters or add a… create a corner in a street that gives away a golden hue with sunsets, or we can get funky and play with building skin shape and color. We can respect the history of the neighborhood by looking through the lens of the past. Or perhaps add an inspirational quote to inspire people passing by. The possibilities are endless with colored BIPV. We can create our cities as vibrant as our imagination can be.
I would like to end my story with a poem from Nazim Hikmet, who’s also Turkish like me. “To live! Like a tree alone and free. To live! Like a forest in brotherhood.” Or sisterhood, in my case. We all live on this planet, so let’s color it for a clean future. Thank you so much for listening.