dhp Technology: Finalist Green Business Award 2019

green business award finalist

Worldwide unique solar folding roof HORIZON

The solar folding roof allows for the first time the dual use of industrial usable space for solar power production, thanks to its unique lightweight construction and folding mechanism. These areas cannot be developed by conventional fixed solar systems and form the enormous market potential of the solar folding roof.

Why solar power?

Since the dawn of the industrial age, man has needed more and more energy. This is obtained primarily from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil or gas. Burning these raw materials not only releases energy, but also emits large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), which drives climate change. At the same time, our forest areas, which could store the CO2, are shrinking more and more due to the growing world population.

To prevent climate change from progressing further, fossil fuels must be replaced by renewable energies. Solar energy is among the most important sustainable carbon-free energy solutions because it is inexhaustible, free, and could theoretically meet all of humanity’s energy needs.

HORIZON photovoltaic modules (© dhp technology)
HORIZON photovoltaic modules (© dhp technology)

In Switzerland, photovoltaic systems now make a significant contribution to the electricity supply. According to the Swiss Solar Energy Association Swisssolar, 84,000 photovoltaic systems are now in operation on Swiss soil. The share of solar power in Swiss electricity consumption was 3.4 percent in 2018.

So the potential is far from exhausted. Through the further expansion of solar energy, CO2 emissions can be decisively reduced, climate change slowed down and further damage to the environment averted.

Dual use of infrastructure areas thanks to unique lightweight design

With the solar folding roof HORIZON, dhp technology AG has developed a completely new application for photovoltaics: the world’s first dual use of industrial usable surfaces and sealed ground surfaces for solar power production.

The solar folding roof solves three challenges in the era of climate change through dual use: it increases the self-sufficiency of infrastructures, provides solar power for the growing demand of electric mobility, and combats the problem of heat islands in cities, all without further taking up the scarce resource of space and land.

Folding solar roof with supporting structure and central protection unit made of local wood (© dhp technology)
Folding solar roof with supporting structure and central protection unit made of local wood (© dhp technology)

This is made possible thanks to the innovative lightweight construction and the patented folding mechanism. Very wide distances between supports and a great height above the ground allow full freedom of use for vehicles, logistics and goods. Even trucks can drive under the solar folding roof without any problems.

At the same time, the consistent lightweight construction halves the amount of material used compared to comparable systems, thus reducing costs and the ecological footprint.As part of a further development, the steel structure is being replaced as far as possible by the renewable and local raw material wood (project with the Swiss Climate Foundation and the canton of Graubünden).

Due to its lightweight construction, the solar folding roof is only conditionally weatherproof and must be protected against hail, snow and storms.In bad weather conditions, the modules can be retracted into a protective unit. The process is controlled fully automatically by an algorithm that analyzes meteorological data.

Thanks to Swiss ropeway technology, HORIZON has been given a clever and very durable drive and folding mechanism that allows it to be retracted and extended.

Swiss ropeway technology for automatic insertion and removal of solar modules (© dhp technology)
Swiss ropeway technology for automatic insertion and removal of solar modules (© dhp technology)

The system is smart grid compatible and prepared for IoT, electromobility and storage technologies.

HORIZON can be easily dismantled and reassembled elsewhere and is safe and durable thanks to Swiss engineering. If the solar folding roof is no longer needed, dismantling and material separation is simple and efficient thanks to the modular design.

HORIZON conserves space and soil in populated areas, enables large decentralized solar power plants where the electricity is needed and provides shade for people, goods and infrastructure.

Where is HORIZON used?

With industrialization, water pollution has also increased. Over 70,000 wastewater treatment plants are now installed in Europe. These take up large areas for open clarifiers and consume a lot of electricity. As water pollution continues to increase, more energy is needed each year to clean our wastewater.

Since the basins of the wastewater treatment plants must be freely accessible in the meantime, the plants cannot be covered with conventional photovoltaic systems.

Due to its folding mechanism, the solar folding roof allows free access at any time and, due to its lightweight construction, leaves all traffic routes free for sewage treatment operations and logistics. At the same time, the roof produces electricity for the operation of the plant. Self-sufficiency can thus be increased by 50% on average. This leads to an enormous reduction in operating costs.

The shading reduces the formation of algae, which in turn brings reduced cleaning costs, and the comfort of the operating staff is greatly improved, especially during the summer months when pool renovations are scheduled.

Folding solar roof over the basins of a wastewater treatment plant ( © Marco Hartmann/dhp technology)
Folding solar roof over the basins of a wastewater treatment plant ( © Marco Hartmann/dhp technology)

HORIZON can also be installed over large parking areas and logistics areas, helping to increase the economic efficiency of sealed floors with low economic benefits. With conventional photovoltaic solutions, these areas cannot be covered because vehicles cannot maneuver more freely under the plants. The solar folding roof solves the problems due to the large distances between supports and an enormous height above the ground. This would allow virtually all types of vehicles – even semi-trucks – to park and maneuver under the roof.

Folding solar roof over a parking area (© dhp technology)
Folding solar roof over a parking area (© dhp technology)

The energy generated via the roof modules can be used to charge electric vehicles directly where they are parked. Here, too, shading protects people, goods and vehicles from heat and reduces air-conditioning requirements accordingly.

In combination with charging infrastructure for electromobility, this creates a decentralized mobility solution that makes maximum use of existing space and infrastructure.

The solar folding roof can completely cover asphalt surfaces where conventional carport systems must leave the roadway open. Therefore, the solar folding roof directly counteracts the problem of heat islands in cities by blocking solar radiation and producing electricity during the day, and retracting the solar folding roof at night, allowing the ground surfaces to radiate against the sky. Large cities in Europe are already interested in this solution.

Imagefilm Solarfaltdach HORIZON dhp technology

The company behind the solution

dhp technology is a startup in the energy sector. The company was founded in April 2015 in Grüsch, Grisons, by Andreas Hügli and Gian Andri Diem.

A team of already 16 employees develops, produces and sells the solar folding roof at the company site in Zizers near Landquart. The mechanical, electrical and environmental engineers also work with external partners in Germany and abroad, as well as with research institutes.

dhp produces the solar folding roof groups and drive systems highly automated on 2’500m2 in Graubünden. In 2018, dhp obtained a broad-based shareholder base as part of a Series A financing and can also count on the support of a guarantee from the Technology Fund (Federal Office for the Environment). This laid a strong foundation for market entry and initial growth. The market also recognizes the solar folding roof, for 2019 another 4 projects over wastewater treatment plants and the first project over a parking area in Appenzell are sold.

Founding partners and managing directors, Gian Andri Diem and Andreas Hügli (© dhp technology)
Founding partners and managing directors, Gian Andri Diem and Andreas Hügli (© dhp technology)

The application of the folding solar roof over wastewater treatment infrastructure has already received multiple awards in Switzerland (2016 Prix Eco and Certificate of Recognition Zurich Climate Prize, 2018 Medaille d’Eau and Innovation Award from industry associations VSA and Infrawatt, 2019 Watt d’Or in the category Renewable Energies). But the European Commission is also enthusiastic about the folding solar roof. The potential for increasing self-supply of electricity via European wastewater treatment infrastructure is enormous. To this end, it is promoting the market entry of the folding solar roof in the 6 most important EU markets over the next 2 years.

Nominated solution: Solar folding roof HORIZON

Company: dhp Technology AG
Further information: www.dhp-technology.ch