- imec spin-off Soltech NV has secured €1.9 million funding from a host of investors
- This enables the company to start its customized BIPV panel production to be deployed for roof tiles, awnings, window glass or noise barriers as well as vehicles
- It will be able to carry out automation and also bring online a new fab in Genk
A consortium of investors have come together to fund building integrated PV (BIPV) solar panel production plans of Soltech NV, an imec research center spin-off. It will be headed by serial entrepreneur Bas van de Kreeke as its CEO who also heads construction company van de Kreeke. Initially, Soltech will serve its existing customers from Tienen and invest in innovation and product development.
By the end of 2022, Soltech expects its new production facility at Thor Park in Genk to come online. This Thor Park is a high-tech business campus being developed by LRM, the City of Genk and KU Leuven. Here, it will continue to collaborate with EnergyVille and imec for R&D activities.
In its new avatar, Soltech will roll out customized BIPV solar panels to be deployed for roof tiles, awnings, window glass or noise barriers as well as for vehicles.
“Traditional solar panels are mainly produced in China and sold at prices that can no longer be produced in Europe. This part of the market is therefore no longer included in Soltech’s revised strategy,” said Soltech CEO Bas van de Kreeke. “The building-integrated solar panels require a lot of know-how and flexible and fast tailor-made production. This can be produced locally in Belgium at a good margin.”
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Founded in 1989, Soltech NV has been producing stand-alone photovoltaic systems from its current site in Tienen, and continued to invest in innovation even after its sister company cell maker Photovoltech ‘succumbed to Chinese competition in 2013’. However, it tried to get automation for its fab and invest in new machines, but was hindered due to lack of funds.
Now with €1.9 million ($2.25 million) capital injection from 6 industrial and financial partners—identified as Bas van de Kreeke, glass producer AGC Glass Europe, metals product company Hegge BV, Limburg investment company LRM, Limburg environmental holding Nuhma and investor group RSQ Investors—it has now got a ‘new lease of life’ after it collapsed in March 2021 due to lack of funds for its innovation and automation needs.
According to Kreeke, BIPV has an attractive market to capture since solar panels can now sport an attractive aesthetic design. He added, “The combination of generating renewable energy and various architectural functional elements will increase in importance for the living environment of the future. Within the foreseeable future, all buildings must meet the strict European energy performance standards.”
According to 2017 estimates of Belgian TSO Elia, the country could install 18 GW of solar by 2040, with total rooftop potential of 40 GW (see Belgium: 18 GW PV Potential).