Lessons learnt

Technical monitoring was provided by the consultancy firm Ecofys and by the University of Utrecht. The experiences of the participants in the project were studied and reported by the University of Rotterdam. Within the PV UP­SCALE project, there were interviews with the architects and the tenants of Nieuwland. In this chapter the lessons learnt are reviewed.

Architectural and constructional The general impression is that Nieuwland is a very successful project with attractive and varied PV architecture.

The architects have drawn the following conclusions from this project:

• The application of solar energy puts pressure on the spatial design of the district. It means that the streets must be oriented from east to west, except in the case of flat-roofed buildings.

• PV roofing puts significant requirements on the architectural design of the PV houses. The architect involved must take all these requirements into consideration when designing PV houses.

• A simple replacement of roofing tiles by PV modules is not possible. Extra measures are necessary (watertight layer or watertight profiles, adapted roofing construction).

• The introduction of a watertight layer has consequences for the logistics of the building process. After the layer was put in place, building workers walked across the layer, damaging it in many places.

• Each new project means that (some) new parties will be involved. It is very likely that these parties will have no knowledge and/ or no experience with PV. It is important to inform these people about PV, especially about the aspects important for their part of the project.

• Some of the project developers wanted a traditional appearance for the PV houses. The architects found it very difficult to combine the high-tech appearance of solar modules with traditional housing.

• Architects seek more colours, varied dimensions and structures for solar modules. Also matching accessories are needed such as fastening constructions and edge and corner pieces. They expect that more choice will stimulate creativity and increase the number of applications.

• There was too much pressure to realize the target PV capacity and no space for other measures that were potentially more financially attractive and environmentally effective.

The major lessons learnt were, firstly, that there was no problem integrating PV in the urban process. Even at a rather late stage the urban plan could be modified, though of course it is better to take the solar factor into account from the very beginning. Secondly, architects had no problem in designing and working with PV. The only important condition was that sufficient information was available to them. In this project this was achieved by a helpdesk the architects and developers could call during the housing development.

The PV company Shell Solar learnt especially in this project not to embrace the idea of combining the necessary watertightness of a house roof with the integration of a PV solar roof. As in the previous Nieuw Sloten project in Amsterdam, too many problems arose with water leakage.

Operation and maintenance

Except for the malfunctioning of some inverters at the very beginning of the project and cable connection failures, no major electrical problems have occurred. In particular there was no negative impact on the quality of the grid.

The major lessons for Eneco concern the ownership and maintenance of so many dispersed and varied PV systems. This was much more difficult than initially expected. Though a final conclusion cannot be drawn here, it is apparent that these problems must be solved, as sub-optimal or unclear ownership and poor maintenance have caused major problems during the lifetime of the project.

The Nieuwland 1MW PV project was the first of its kind in the world: never before had a PV project been implemented on such a scale. From an architectural point of view, the project was a big success with a variety of system designs and integration methods demonstrated. However, the after-care of the PV systems has been more time-consuming than anticipated and it looks like the growing pains are not over yet.

It turns out that yearly monitoring and inspection rounds (the current practice for this project) have not been sufficient to keep system outages down to an acceptable level. Between 2003 and 2007 maintenance was done at a minimum level, and performance went down.

Updated: September 30, 2015 — 8:42 pm