The sustainable energy centre is a non-profit organisation that aims to realise the potential of renewable energy sources, thereby contributing to environmental protection and job creation. The company was founded in 2008, but its origins date to 2003, when the first building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) modules were installed on flat roofs in Germany.
Initially starting as an institute for applied research and development for solar energy technologies, the company has diversified into other areas such as consulting services for businesses, municipalities and communities. It currently operates within five different market segments:
• BIPV module production;
• Solar systems design/installation;
• LED lighting system design/install;
• Consulting services; and
• Product development and prototyping.
The sustainable energy centre has developed a number of innovative solar systems, such as the “integrated” (“integriertes KfW-System”) and “customisable” (“schlüsselfertiges Photovoltaik-Kraftwerksystem’ PVSYST'”) systems. The institute’s production facilities consist of:
• A BIPV module manufacturing line;
• A sheet metal machine; and
• A solar glass cutting machine.
In addition to its research activities, the company provides consulting services for businesses, municipalities & communities. It delivers integrated audits in conjunction with local authorities and stakeholders, which help identify investment opportunities to reduce the level of energy consumption & carbon emissions.
The sustainable energy centre has conducted research projects with several universities and public institutions (e.g., Fraunhofer Institute) like the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). Collaborations also exist with organisations such as :
• Volkswagen AG, regarding solar-powered charging stations;
• UNESCO; and
• The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Germany), in the context of its “Industry 4.0” initiative.
The company’s work has also been recognised at national levels by bodies such as :
• Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, for its “Solar Valley Paderborn” project;
• The European Commission, for the Solar Valley North project; and
• Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (“UBA”), for its work on solar energy audits.
The main activities of the sustainable energy centre are broken down into three categories: production/technical consultancy, consulting services & product development & prototyping. These are summarised below :
1) BIPV module production/technical consultancy:
• Consulting services related to architecture, engineering and technical inspection projects involving BIPV modules;
• Development of cost-effective photovoltaic systems with high efficiency for different applications. This has included building-integrated PV modules that can also be customised to meet specific requirements;
• Consulting services related to feasibility studies for the construction of new solar power plants. The company offers assessment tools that are acknowledged across international markets & can be used to identify potential risks & disadvantages associated with solar energy projects.
2) Product development and prototyping:
• Design, production & testing of flat roof solutions, rooftop installations, technical inspections & various applications (e.g., carports);
• Global market monitoring of BIPV systems (e.g., quality management system certification for ISO 9001). The sustainable energy centre was one of the first companies in Germany to achieve this status;
• Planning, design and engineering for PV modules connected to local low-age networks (LV networks), using innovative technology developed in its own research & development department.
3) Consulting services:
• The sustainable energy centre assists businesses, municipalities & communities by identifying potential projects that would reduce the level of energy consumption and carbon emissions. These might include the installation of solar panels on public buildings, for example;
• BIPV module inspections are provided to customers who are interested in either standard or customised modules. The company uses inspection tools & equipment to guarantee quality throughout all stages of the process, from production line testing through to final inspection;
• Solar heating system design/installation (e.g., PV systems for greenhouses);
• Large-scale rooftop projects involving LV networks; and