Some of the latest innovative solutions are turning architectural constraints into assets, which re-boosts heritage and sustainability. This new innovation has been developed by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the Portuguese city of Evora.
Yearly, more than 3,5 million tourists from all over the world visit Pompeii to see the ruins left by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that, in 79 AD, engulfed it together with the nearby city of Herculaneum.
Terracotta tiles that produce electricity
Solar panels disguised as ancient Roman tiles or terracotta bricks match the city skyline on the magnificent House of Cerere. “They look exactly like the terracotta tiles used by the Romans, but they produce the electricity that we need to light the frescoes,” says Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.
Part of a comprehensive study
This solution is part of a more comprehensive strategy to turn costs into savings opportunities and embrace sustainable development. “Pompeii is an ancient city, which in some spots is fully preserved. Since we needed an extensive lightning system, we could either keep consuming energy, leaving poles and cables around and disfiguring the landscape, or choose to respect it and save millions of euros.”
Technically it is called traditional photovoltaic (PV) tiles. The invisible solar panels used in Pompeii come from Camisano Vicentino, a little Italian town where they were created and patented by a family business, Dyaqua.
The idea stems from Giovanni Battista, who made a business out of his hobbies of plastics and electricity. He wanted to solve the problem of spotlights in public areas, which spoil the view once they are switched off.
Different looks and solutions
Traditional PV tiles are made from a polymer compound to allow the sun’s rays to filter through. The photovoltaic cells are then integrated into it by hand and covered with a layer of the polymer compound.
Different looks such as stone, wood, concrete and brick can be created and used on walls and floors.
The tiles have been approved by the Italian Ministry of Culture. Traditional PV tiles have been installed in Vicoforte and will soon be used in Rome’s renowned museum of contemporary art, Maxxi. In the coming months, they will also cover the roofs of some public buildings in Split, Croatia, and Evora, Portugal.
Together with Alkmaar in the Netherlands, the Portuguese city is one of the demo sites that are testing innovative solutions aimed at combining sustainability with the valorisation of architectural and cultural heritage within the European project, Pocityf. The Italian company, Tegola Canadese, is among its technical partners.
Implementing an invisible solution
According to research and development manager, Graziano Peterle, Evora is a beautiful city and since it is not flat, basically every roof of the city can be seen. “Most of them are red or terracotta but since the photovoltaic panels are usually dark, blue or black do not go unnoticed. This is why the municipality insisted on implementing an invisible solution.”
Painting the solar panels would cause reduced energy performance. This is why Dyaqua was called on by Tegola Canadese, which is managing other solutions in Evora. The technology that will be used on these sites is called Tegosolar.
Subsidies for PV
A few years ago, the Italian government established subsidies for the installation of photovoltaic systems. Solutions such as Tegosolar and traditional PV tiles are crucial for matching sustainability with conservation, protection and the enhancement of heritage.
“One key aspect is to look at the cultural sites, ancient buildings and historic cities not as obstacles, but as assets for reducing our carbon emissions,” says Francesca Giliberto, an architect specialising in conservation and management and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds. Traditional PV tiles were also installed in the Thermopolis and recently in the House of the Vettii.
Issue: Extensive lightning system consumes energy, is expensive and will disfigure the landscape.
Solution: Invisible photovoltaic systems turn costs into savings opportunities and embrace sustainable development.
The challenge was to prevent causing damage to historic buildings and to use the most innovative solutions, respecting their value and cultural heritage. The invisible photovoltaic also helps to decrease energy bills and makes the archaeological park more enjoyable. This approach will be used in future renovation and restoration projects.
Real-life lab for sustainability
“We are an archaeological site, but we also want to be a real-life lab for sustainability and valorisation of intangible heritage. Our initiative is not merely symbolic. Through the million tourists who visit us every year, we want to send a message to the world: Cultural heritage can be managed differently and in a more sustainable way,” says Zuchtriegel.