Solar glass breakthrough: Skanska sets out plans to ‘revolutionise’ green buildings

Skanska insists its new solar cells won’t require any compromise on a building’s design or aesthetic | CREDIT: Skanska

Swedish construction giant reveals plan to cover office buildings with semi-transparent solar cells, in partnership with Saule Technologies.

Swedish construction giant Skanska is to start covering office buildings in Poland with semi-transparent solar cells, in a world-first move it claims has the potential to “revolutionise” the construction industry and accelerate the delivery of energy-neutral buildings.

Skanska revealed earlier this week that it has teamed up with Polish solar tech firm Saule Technologies to make perovskite solar cells available for use in commercial-scale construction.

Skanska said the integration of perovskite technology directly into a building’s façade marks a “significant milestone” towards delivering zero-energy and carbon-neutral office environments, providing occupants with lower energy costs, lower carbon footprints and lower energy consumption.

Saule Technologies, which has been developing the cells since 2014, uses ink jet technology to ‘print’ solar cells to any size and shape needed to cover a building.

“Perovskite solar cells offer new opportunities to architects and construction companies willing to utilise solar power,” Olga Malinkiewicz, co-founder and CTO of Saule Technologies, explained. “Our modules are lighter, thinner and much more design-friendly than the most popular silicon solar cells. We may customize the shape, color and size of the module depending on the needs of the customer and install them wherever there is a free area on the building. This also means not being limited to the roof.”

Skanska said it has the exclusive rights to use Saule Technologies’ solar cell solutions in building facades and noise barriers across Europe, the US, and Nordic countries, as part of its mission to bolster its standing in the fast-expanding green building market.

The use of the perovskite cells will be led by its commercial development business unit in Central Eastern Europe, with test installations taking place in Poland later this year.

The announcement was somewhat overshadowed on Wednesday when Skanska announced a profit warning and launched a major restructuring effort that will see it axe 3,000 jobs.

The move is likely to stoke fears across a construction market still shaken by Carillion’s sudden collapse.

Skanska said operating profits for the year are likely to be around SKr5.3bn ($657m), lower than analyst expectations of SKr6.4bn ($800m). It said the projections followed “unsatisfactory performance” across several construction units.

Skanska’s new chief executive Anders Danielsson also moved to replace the firm’s finance director and the heads of its Polish and US operations in one of his first acts in his new role.

Madeleine Cuff / BusinessGreen