Bluescope unveils "world first" solar roof with heat and power | RenewEconomy

Bluescope unveils “world first” solar roof with heat and power

Bluescope unveils “world first” built-in solar array that generates electricity and heat, and acts as roofing.


A small terrace house in the inner Sydney suburb of Glebe is hosting what is believed to be the world’s first building integrated solar system that generates electricity as well as heat.

bluescope bipvcThe array combines thin-film solar PV and solar thermal technologies into a steel sheet roofing product produced by Australian steel manufacturer Bluescope, with assistance from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The top layer of the roofing product (pictured) generates electricity in the same way as solar PV modules – although it uses thin film technology for less weight and thickness – while heat is trapped and distributed between the two layers for use in water and space heating.

The BIPVT installation is being hailed as a product that could one day be sold on Australian rooftops, although Bluescope is quick to point out that won’t be anytime soon. It has, however, said in the past that it feels it will be a cost competitive product for homes and businesses. But more work needs to be done in understanding supply chains and manufacturing costs before it is launched on the market.

Still, ARENA, which is facing closure from Tony Abbott’s ultra conservative government, was happy to promote the product, and the result of a $2.3 million grant for the $5 million project.

“Today we are witnessing an exciting new technology solution moving from the lab to be prototyped on everyday Australian rooftops for the first time,”ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said in a statement.

“The old corrugated steel roof on this house in Glebe has been completely replaced with the first integrated photovoltaic (PV) thermal system in Australia, generating reliable renewable energy for the residents. A tile roof in the Illawarra region has also been replaced with the integrated PV system, demonstrating its versatility.

“In addition to PV panels, an innovative thermal duct system warms and cools air to supplement air conditioning in the homes. These first installations are an important step as the technology moves towards commercialisation and cost competitiveness with conventional rooftop PV.”

Frischknecht said the system had been designed to provide a low cost system that would reduce installation and energy costs, as well as peak demand pressures on the grid.

BlueScope is trying to reduce system costs through improved PV modules and roofing designs, reduced packaging and transport, improved building energy efficiency and easy, low-cost installation.

When the project was announced in 2012, Bluescope said the building integrated photovoltaic market was expected to increase 10-fold across the globe in coming years and become a key part of new construction, and even building retrofits.

Bluescope’s head of coating product development, Dr Troy Coyle, told RenewEconomy in 2012 that that innovation in designs, and incorporating energy production was a key part of the future market. “That is where the roofing industry is heading,” she said.

“The market motivator is energy reduction, and the motivator for integration into rooftop design is a reduction of material costs and in building heating costs,” Coyle said. “That way we can have it all done in one.”

It could also be used in retrofits. A new roof deck above the existing roof surface can incorporate solar cells, and air then flows in the duct created under the new roof surface. This air flow will not only help cool the solar cells during warm weather, improving generation efficiency, but it will also help to heat and cool the building. Warm air generated in winter is used for heating, and as heat is radiated from the cells on summer nights, cool air is then supplied to the building, increasing overall energy efficiency.

Bluescope sees this technology being applicable in the residential, commercial and industrial markets.

The opening was attended by the Bob Baldwin, the deputy for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. “This 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,” he said in a statement. Next month, Baldwin’s party will introduce legislation to close ARENA, the agency that made this funding possible.



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  1. Alex 6 years ago

    Perhaps we should write to Bob Baldwin and remind him of the important work that ARENA is doing.

  2. Alex 6 years ago

    Dear Hon. Baldwin,

    I am excited by the prospect of Bluescopes combined solar-heating roofing technology that you mention on your website. The energy benefits of such a system are obvious to everyone, and I share your enthusiasm for this development.

    Unfortunately you seem to have neglected to mention on your website that your own party is hell-bent on defunding ARENA (even though you boast about the Commonwealth Government’s contribution to the project). Can you please clarify your position on this? How can you claim this technology is good while scrapping the very agency that funds such research projects, which are of potential economic benefits to all Australia?

    I would like to see funding maintained for ARENA. It is a great investment for all Australians.

  3. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    !!!We knew they could do it !!!

  4. Graeme Henchel 6 years ago

    My email to Hon Balldwin

    Congratulations on opening the bluscope steel solar roofing prototype which was developed by research funded by ARENA.
    Congratulations for taking coalition hypocrisy to new heights by taking credit for this venture while simultaneously being a government that is dismantling any meaningful support for clean energy technologies.
    Your government’s ignorance and duplicity is simply outstanding.

  5. howardpatr 6 years ago

    With Abbott, Hunt, MacFarlane, Baldwin and the likes backbenchers such as Angus Taylor working against the development of renewable energy technologies Australia is pushing against the odds.

  6. Gongite 6 years ago

    Wow this product is fantastic! Could be a winner for the Wollongong economy too – goodness knows we could do with a boost. Hope it doesn’t take too long to bring to market.

    Alex, I liked your idea of writing to Bob Baldwin and have sent him a message politely pointing out all the good work ARENA is doing on renewables.

  7. wideEyedPupil 6 years ago

    Can’t wait to see the energy output specs on this product. If the price is good it makes a lot of sense.

  8. Phil Gorman 6 years ago

    Herewith text of Email to Mr Baldwin.

    p { margin-bottom: 0.25cm; line-height: 120%; }

    Dear Mr Baldwin,

    Thank you for
    demonstrating an intelligent and enlightened attitude to innovation
    in renewable energy projects. It makes a refreshing change.

    Congratulations on
    having the foresight to attend the unveiling of Bluescope Steel’s
    innovative solar roofing on the Glebe house. This project
    demonstrates the way ahead for cost effective energy saving roofing
    in Australia and overseas. As you know this $5 million project was
    made possible by a $2.3 million grant from ARENA. Thank you too for
    your encouraging address on this occasion. “This 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.”

    This world first in
    building an integrated solar system that generate both electricity
    and heat gives Australia a great competitive advantage. It has
    enormous potential for job creating innovative manufacturing in
    Australia. The domestic market for thin film photo voltaic/thermal
    roofing should bring record breaking returns on a very modest
    investment by a government agency. The export potential for the
    leader in this field can only be imagined.

    Does this presage a
    more positive attitude towards renewable energy on the part of your
    government? I am extremely relieved to see you are in favour of well
    targeted government subsidies bringing renewable energy technologies
    to fruition. I urge you to press Mr MacFarlane and the cabinet to
    strengthen the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and fund it more
    generously. As you so rightly point out this kind of modest
    investment by government can result in disproportionately high
    economic benefits for industry and government.

    Yours sincerely,

    Phil Gorman

  9. wideEyedPupil 6 years ago

    Saw this story on Inhabitat on FB today. Was credited to clean technica who obviously you syndicate to Giles. Shouldn’t the link come back to original source not where they scraped it from?

    Oh I see they credit you for the images, haha

  10. Ken Fabian 6 years ago

    But will Bluescope put the interests of this small part of their business ahead of it’s core business – steel? Will they oppose the axing of ARENA and dilution of RET or will they be giving support and encouragement and possibly donations to the current government to pursue it’s anti-renewable, anti-climate, deny and delay and load the true costs of steel onto the future position whilst attempting to trade on this small investment for greenwash PR purposes? Will, Bluescope, like Origin with Sliver cells, readily let their renewables investments go to the wall when climate policy push comes to shove? And, should they decide to abandon this, will they let others carry it forward or will they jealously retain their rights to keep it on the shelf and sue any entrepreneurs who dare to do anything too similar? Sorry, but my cynicism is showing.

  11. RTE 6 years ago

    eaasagyrt uids seaopuiuy

  12. JonathanMaddox 6 years ago

    Yeah, the scare quotes in the headline are apposite.

  13. Simon 5 years ago

    Didn’t take long to forget about CHAPS at ANU then, given it was built around what, 8

    years ago? With funding from the then AGO.

    • RobS 5 years ago

      How has it been forgotten?
      The article claims this is the first building integrated solar/thermal hybrid panel, the CHAPS system is a parabolic dish, I’d love to see how exactly your going to use parabolic dishes as an integrated building material

      • Simon 5 years ago

        Rob OK if we get pedantic yes it is about a BUILDING INTEGRATED system. However the product is and can be laid over existing roofing. No you probably can’t use it CHAPS on an average house.

        But to answer your question on how it has been forgotten: by not being mentioned at all in the article. Th article presents this solution as something no one has ever thought f, when it has been thought of, prototype, trialed, dropped, rejigged and tried again, in many forms in many parts of the world, including Australia (CHAPS).

        This matters given all the glowing comments on this page along the lines of “woohoo what a great idea cant wait to get one”. It was a $5m project that looks like it has partly covered one house. So no different to all the other bits of tech that have promised much, cost a bomb to prototype, and gone no where.

        • RobS 5 years ago

          It’s not pedantic at all, the article called it the first building integrated solar PV/thermal hybrid installation. CHAPS is NOT building integrated, there are multiple PV/thermal hybrid panel/dish and trough systems available some even at a retail level, the article was pointing out this was the first one to be an integrated building material.

  14. Martin Ryan 5 years ago

    Brilliant work Bluescope, such a great vision for the immediate future
    Martin Ryan
    Sun-Power Auto Gates A.C.T

  15. Toby 5 years ago

    Good to see, nice product – but I don’t think it’s a world first, or even an Aussie first. A company here in Queensland called Tractile developed polymer roof-integrated PV-T tiles a few years ago and they are already on the market….

    • GLO 4 years ago

      I have just came across Tractile, and found this site promoting Bluescopes version. Is it linked anywhere else and what is pricing like?

  16. Alan.Crazyman84 5 years ago
  17. peterbreis 5 years ago

    Watching this Abbott Government unveiling these projects, and claiming credit, brings to mind those images of General Mladic patting children’s heads on that bus in Bosnia.

  18. UIWGroup 5 years ago

    For a product that was to be launched this month. Why have they pulled back from the edge and not launching. Surely product testing and all that is required and must have happened well before arriving at this point.

    But is not the first time I have seen it happen.

    I am disappointed and want to ask them a number of questions.

  19. Petra 5 years ago

    As someone who little clue about how PV cells work I am a bit confused. How do the PV cells receive the light? In this image it seems like the topmost layer is not installed yet. But isn’t it made out of their Colorbond coated steel? Can someone explain it to me?

    • Petra 5 years ago

      Oh I get it, the picture in the article is the part of the roof with no PV cells, very misleading. The actual appearance of the solar sheets on the metal roof doesn’t really feel so very integrated to me.

      • RWD 4 years ago

        No – the picture in the article is the complete panel. Thin film panels have a different appearance to the usual panels (normally they look like a heap of plasma TVs on the roof – this is much more integrated).

    • Taylor 4 years ago

      As detailed in the article. The top is a thin film that works in ‘the same way’ as PV cells. They are not actually integrated PV cell though. What you see in the picture is it. All of it. No more to add on top.

  20. Justin Eldershaw 5 years ago

    Congratulations on the new product. When will you be further rolling out the product?

  21. R Brian Rogers 5 years ago

    And if they kept funding TESLA we all would have free energy , but no the ELITE wanted to gouge us for life and they’ve just gotten better at it ….

  22. Corlia 5 years ago

    This is wonderful news. I can’t wait for your project to spread across the globe.

  23. Alan Bond 5 years ago

    So 2 years later, what has happened to it????

  24. mk1313 5 years ago

    Will it be available in Canada?

  25. Phil 4 years ago

    Ha Ha ,

    I’ve been pumping air out of my roof cavity at typically 10 degrees above outside temp into the house below using a 70 watt axial fan and duct that is powered by a 100% off grid solar power system for 3 years now

    It takes a 110 sqm meter alpine home from 5 degrees to 15 degrees on a sunny day and means we often don’t have to heat during the day if we choose to on a sunny day

    All up cost is $0.00.Fan is from a discarded LPG heater from the local tip and the 180mm duct is a waste offcut

    • Mike A 4 years ago

      Fantastic idea. Retrofits like this are an i’portant part of what can be done.

    • Doug Cutler 4 years ago

      How is the air quality from the attic? Any odors or dust? We have open batts of fiberglass insulation in our attic.

      • Phil 4 years ago

        Does not seem to be a problem
        The build is only 1 year old so may be a musty smell might be a problem later ? I have glass batts insulation.

        The roof cavity peak height is 2.3 meters and the fan and intake is at that height to get the hottest air , so perhaps that helps. I can walk through the ceiling as i have a catwalk up the middle

        I have a wood heater and there is a gap around the flue to ceiling exit point with a cover plate on ceramic spacers. I made a fire proof plenum box up around that in the roof cavity ceiling so that the fan feeds that and then it flows out through the gaps into the room beow when the wood heater is not on. It allows a lot of flow and you don’t know it’s there visually and it’s very quiet

        When the wood heater is on and the fan off some hot air goes back up to the fan and out into the ceiling cavity , but as it’s a heater fan it’s designed to work with very hot air. And that heat would normaly be wasted that way anyway as the airflow is designed to keep the ceiling to flue connection cool . I could also turn the fan on and recover back down into the room below any lost waste heat up in the ceiling. But i dont think this would work as it gets so cold here it would be too cold up there.

        We are Alpine here and even in January it did not get over 20 degrees today The roof cavity heater took the house up to 24 degrees. No wood used !

  26. Jim Bill 4 years ago

    Superb. Although I live in the US, I have been planning a solar array for several years, only waiting until it makes financial sense. Good for you.

  27. Ron Glass 4 years ago

    This changes (almost) everything

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