Urban Photovoltaics


Urban Photovoltaics

Urban photovoltaics (UPV) uses sealed areas in cities, towns and villages to generate electricity from renewable sources and to create attractive urban landscapes.  Examples include large parking lots, public squares or sport and recreation areas, where photovoltaics is installed in combination with shading elements, light sources, charging infrastructure for electromobility or rain shelters.  This adds value to the spaces for users and allows them to experience the energy transformation positively. A further example is the combination of photovoltaics with lighting, shading and rain protection in a central omnibus station or over the parking areas of trade exhibition grounds.  Along the roadside, PV systems can serve as advertising boards or be integrated with WiFi, 5G mobile network or monitoring functions.  UPV installations must meet high expectations on design and functionality and thus usually demand individual solutions.  In addition, the legal boundary conditions governing publicly accessible areas are complex and authorization processes are difficult.

Quick-Facts: Urban Photovoltaics (UPV)

  • Technical potential in Germany of at least 59 GWp
  • Advantages:
    • Usage of already sealed areas
    • Often short connection distances to the grid
    • Dual benefit by integration of lighting, shading, electromobility charging infrastructure, rain protection
    • Overheating protection for large sealed surfaces
    • Visual enhancement of areas that are often somewhat sterile
  • Challenges:
    • Combination of functionality and design
    • Definition of clear specifications for the authorization of UPV systems (safety, bureaucratic processes, responsibilities, standards)
    • Greater planning effort and higher costs due to individual solutions and small production numbers
    • Demands on module technology (stability, mechanical loading, traction, noise absorption, albedo)
    • Avoidance of undesirable effects such as glare

Application options

In addition to contributing to power supply from renewable sources, urban photovoltaics can and should always offer a benefit to citizens and municipal authorities.  As a result, renewably generated electricity would be experienced positively.  This can be achieved by a combination of supplying electricity with other functions such as illumination of a large parking area, provision of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, advertising boards that are visible at night or a shelter at a bus or tram stop. Figure 11 shows two examples of installations over a larger parking lot, where the design has been adapted to the specific surroundings.  During the day, the PV systems provide shade and during the night, they offer enough illumination that street lights are not needed.  Urban photovoltaics can make a significant contribution to supplying power close to the final consumers and use already sealed areas for solar electricity generation.  This avoids additional loads on the environment and can create attractive urban areas and streetscapes when good designs are applied.

Application examples of urban PV
© IFID GmbH - Institut für Innovation und Design

Visualisation of PV systems in highly frequented urban surroundings. The illustrations show installations over parking areas, where value is added particularly by illumination at night. The systems were designed to supply power of at least 10 kWp and thus feed a significant amount of electricity into the local grid.