A pre-painted Colorbond steel sheet roofing which is combined with thin-film solar panels has been successfully tested and launched on a Sydney home.

The new technology was launched last week by the Australian renewable energy agency (ARENA), an independent Government authority. Architecture & Design first reported that manufacturer Bluescope was working on the multi-million dollar research and development project in 2012.

Now those plans towards a commercially available product have reached a major milestone, being demonstrated at a home in Glebe, where the old corrugated steel roof of the house was completely replaced with the first integrated photovoltaic thermal system in Australia.

This building-integrated photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) system is employed for the production of electricity and thermal energy, while an innovative thermal duct system warms and cools air to supplement air conditioning in the home.

The team behind the system also announced that the first residential application was made earlier in the Illawarra region, where a tile roof was replaced with the integrated PV system to demonstrate the product’s versatility.

The installation in Glebe: Thermal only-section of roof being installed. There is no PV in this section; the roof is functioning is this area to capture heat alone.

“This new integrated PV system has been designed to provide a low cost system for Australian residential, commercial and industrial rooftops,” said Ivor Frischknecht of ARENA, which partly funded the $5 million project undertaken by flat steel producer Bluescope.

“These first installations are an important step as the technology moves towards commercialisation and cost competitiveness with conventional rooftop PV.”

Designed specifically for Australia’s climate and building environments, the new system is expected to reduce installation and energy costs through the use of improved roofing systems, additional extraction of thermal energy, and increased labour and materials productivity by incorporating the installation into the build process.

Inverters, which transform the electricity harvested from sunlight by PV solar panels into a form that can be used by electrical appliances, are also being developed.

Bluescope is currently aiming to reduce the system’s costs through improved PV modules and roofing designs, reduced packaging and transport, improved building energy efficiency and low-cost and easy installation. 

In 2012, Bluescope suggested the next major advance was not far away, predicting factory-applied photovoltaics paint systems were five to 10 years from becoming reality: "This is absolutely the nirvana of steel manufacturing" said a spokesperson for the manufacturer.