Together with a number of other partners, AGC Glass Europe is helping to give Soltech a new lease of life. The imec spin-off, specialising in tailor-made building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), collapsed in March 2021 as there were insufficient funds for the innovation and automation needed.
Metal processor Hegge B.V., Limburg investment company LRM, environmental holding company Nuhma, RSQ Investors and AGC Glass Europe have faith in Soltech, led by entrepreneur Bas van de Kreeke, as a promising business and have therefore decided to infuse new life into it by means of a joint capital injection of €1.9 million. It will process tailor-made solar panels for applications in roofing, canopies, glazing or acoustic screens, but also solar modules for vehicles. From the existing production site in Tienen (Belgium) the highly specialised team stands ready to resume intensive collaboration with renowned knowledge institutions such as Energyville, imec, IMMOMEC and UHasselt.
Bas van de Kreeke, the new CEO of Soltech, believes firmly in the future of the business: “The market of solar panels or photovoltaic cells is still growing strongly. Innovation in materials and processes remains necessary for greater and stable profitability, new applications and lower production costs. The traditional solar panels are mostly produced in China and sold at prices that European producers can no longer match. Thus, Soltech is switching approach and will focus on building-integrated PV panels that require very considerable know-how and flexible, fast, customised production. And this we can produce in Belgium and even make a reasonable margin on it”.
What appeals particularly to AGC Glass Europe in this respect is the presence of a local value chain and the fact that the development of solar panels is being driven strongly by increasing moves towards sustainability and circularity. Patrick Van Bortel, Vice President Industrial & New Business at AGC Glass Europe says: “As the European leader in flat glass with its headquarters in Belgium we’re stepping into this initiative fully convinced. The BIPV market is in full development, and – in line with the EU Green Deal – AGC Glass Europe is determined to play a leading role in making the construction sector sustainable”.
Existing customers will continue to be served from the production facilities in Tienen and there will also be investments in innovation and product development. There are plans on the drawing board for a completely new production facility in the Thor Park in Genk. Delivery of this high-tech business campus, which is being developed by LRM, the City of Genk and KU Leuven, is planned for the end of 2022.
For more on BIPV and AGC Glass Europe’s activities in this area, see: www.agc-activeglass.com