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Discovering Zero-Energy buildings

In Uppsala, Sweden, innovative photovoltaic panels, sustainable materials and energy storage solutions are bringing Magasin X to life

Published on AUGUST 03, 2022
Turning buildings into power plants and making them more attractive, quieter and more thermally insulated: this is not a fairy tale or science fiction. On this first voyage[1]  of discovery around our “Success Stories of Electrification”, we take you to Uppsala, Sweden, to explore the nearly zero-energy building Magasin X and BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaics). BIPV panels are innovative photovoltaic panels integrated into buildings that replace traditional construction materials, resulting in reduced CO₂ emissions and lower electricity bills. Accompanying us on this journey is Be-Smart, a project financed by the European Union as part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, and Laure-Emmanuelle Perret, Senior Research Scientist at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), expert in photovoltaics and founder of Compáz, which is responsible for communications in the Be-Smart project.

Be-Smart: toward nearly zero-energy buildings

“Be-Smart is a European project that aims to demonstrate that a photovoltaic panel can be an active feature of a building that not only provides energy by producing electricity, but architectural and construction value as well,” explains Laure-Emmanuelle Perret.

To accomplish this, the project brings together 14 partners – research institutes, innovative companies, construction firms and architecture studios – with the goal of using BIPV panels to contribute to the EU energy transformation in cities and urban areas in order to achieve the climate and energy goals of the COP21 framework. 

Distributed Energy and Infrastructure

Distributed Energy and Infrastructure

Save money and improve the site’s resiliency by generating sustainable power locally

It is estimated that the integration of these innovative photovoltaic panels on roofs, skylights and building facades could lead to a potential increase in the area available for solar energy harvesting in densely populated countries, quantifiable in Europe as 22% more clean electricity generated: "With Be-Smart, we want to provide a roadmap for reducing the costs of these new technologies and outline business models that make this sector more competitive in Europe in the coming years,” added Perret.

Uppsala: where the circular economy becomes reality

Smart City

Smart City

Empowering the smart city revolution, for people and the environment

The development of the BIPV panel is part of a much broader challenge that addresses the gradual increase in global demand for electricity, which is concentrated mainly in large cities. The latest estimates predict that by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in megacities of over 10 million people and by 2040 global demand for electricity will have risen by 60%. Faced with increases of such size, it is imperative that we rethink our cities from top to bottom: how we construct buildings, how we produce and consume energy, what public and private mobility will be like. The challenge is enormous and demands that we question how we make cities – and in particular megacities – cleaner, less polluted and with a better quality of life than in today’s urban environments.
Energy Efficiency for Public Buildings

Energy Efficiency for Public Buildings

Efficient and comfortable buildings for the benefit of all

This means that the choice of materials used, their origin, how they’re transported, and also their availability on the market, is fundamental. The key is applying circular economy models to the construction of buildings, like Magasin X in Uppsala, Sweden: the country’s largest wood-frame office building, designed with help from the Be-Smart partnership.

 

The building is LEED Platinum certified and has a surface area of over 16,000 square meters; more than 4,000 cubic meters of wood were used in its construction. Magasin X proves that it is possible to design and construct innovative, sustainable buildings with the least possible environmental impact. For greater longevity and less need for maintenance, the structure – built entirely of wood – is clad in Norwegian slate, a material that is highly resistant to all atmospheric conditions.

The roof is covered entirely in photovoltaic cells, as is 40% of the building’s south-facing façade, a feature that also helps reduce the indoor temperature on that side of the building. The result of this masterpiece of technology and sustainability is an energy consumption of just 20 kWh/m²/year compared to an average of 180 (source: ENEA): “Magasin X and other extraordinary projects in Europe demonstrate that the time is ripe. We have the technologies and the know-how, now we need massive investment in sustainability and in green energy, and a bold, strong commitment from politicians and institutions,” explains Laure-Emmanuelle Perret.

The key to the energy transition? Batteries for energy storage

The new challenges in research and innovation don’t end there. With the growth of renewable energy, electricity grids also need to change, becoming more flexible and resilient. The energy market is undergoing a rapid and radical transformation: from a largely centralized system to one that is decentralized and spread across territories, in which local communities or single consumers produce the energy they need and feed the surplus electricity back onto the grid. In order to facilitate this process, two elements are crucial: grid efficiency, in order to reduce energy loss as much as possible, and innovative battery storage, which is a key technology for the energy transition and one that Magasin X has mounted on its roof as an integrated element between the photovoltaic panels.
Battery Energy Storage Solutions

Battery Energy Storage Solutions

Integrated solutions to save energy and boost your business

“Energy storage is a crucial issue that many projects, companies and research institutes are working on. We need to find solutions capable of solving the problem of seasonal storage. Batteries are starting to be used in buildings to store electricity for the building but also for mobility: electric cars and charging stations.”

Innovation and shared commitments for our planet

So we need to rethink the electricity grid, but that’s not all. Electricity companies and those that offer electrification services must also be innovative and able to reinvent themselves in order to be successful. “I really like Enel X Global’s goals, and this initiative that uses the journey to tell the success stories of electrification and sustainability demonstrates a strong desire to care for our planet and its beauty, which is an important part of the solution,” continues Laure-Emmanuelle Perret. She concludes by sharing her thoughts for the future: “I’m pessimistic and optimistic at the same time. On the one hand, we can see that climate change has already had a dramatic effect on many regions of the world. At the same time, however, I see so many wonderful initiatives, people and organizations that are committed to creating change.
Electrification

Electrification

The process driving the energy transition for a sustainable world

The work we’re doing at Compáz, the Be-Smart project and the many Enel X Global initiatives are all clearly driven by this positive energy. For me, this is an essential factor that gives me faith in the future, faith in a world of peace and respect for humankind, biodiversity and the planet, our only home.”