One of the best ways to make buildings greener is to cover them with solar panels — turning homes, offices, and factories into clean energy generators. 

Rooftop solar is particularly popular in the Netherlands because, well, it’s a tiny country with lots of people, where every square inch counts. Adding solar panels to the empty exterior of a building, rather than occupying swathes of countryside, simply makes sense.  

Rooftop makes up the largest number of solar installations in the EU, and demand is skyrocketing. But, while solar panels will be an increasingly common feature of architecture going forward, for some they are an eyesore.

However, as the market booms, an emerging cohort of Dutch startups is specialising in solar roofs and facades that not only look awesome, but do the energy-generating bit too. 

“The sun sees solar modules, we see art,” says Jeroen Boumans, architect at Eindhoven University spin-off ZigZagSolar. The startup has designed a corrugated facade for buildings that it claims harnesses twice as much energy as a standard flat solar wall, and 25% more than a solar roof. Its installations look more like a mural than anything else.

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