SolarTerra Vs. Standard Panels

While solar panels can only be used to generate electricity at low cost, our SolarTerra solution acts primarily as an active building material. Not only does SolarTerra produce electricity like any other solar panel, but it also fulfils architectural functions of a technical kind (e.g. waterproofing with the Solrif®, roof or chimney contour, insulation, etc.) and of an aesthetic kind. It must be as as beautiful as a natural building  material.  

2. How efficient is SolarTerra compared to standard solar panels?

SolarTerra uses the same solar cells as those used in standard solar panels. However, the colouring of the glass influences the efficiency of the cells behind. Here are the differences:

Average Efficiency 

SolarTerra Original Color 15% or 150Wp/m2

SolarTerra Dark Color (Copper) 18% or 180Wp/m2

SolarTerra Black Color 20% or 200Wp/m2 

Standard solar panel 20% or 200Wp/m2

3. What is the loss due to colour? 

Keep in mind that the cell technology we use is exactly the same as the technology used in conventional solar panels. SolarTerra benefits from the same technological improvements as solar panels. Since we know that every year the technology gets a little more efficient. 

Loss due to coloration 

SolarTerra Original Color 25%

SolarTerra Dark Color (Copper) 18%

SolarTerra Black Color 0%

4. Do you provide customized shape and dimensions

Activ'Glass is known for this. We are the experts in customization. SolarTerra is our most standard solution. In order to reduce costs, we strive to limit the number of versions available. Today, SolarTerra is available in 5 sizes (see http://designer.activ-glass.com/) But if the geometry of the building requires it, we can offer you specific cutouts or shapes.  For this, we need precise drawings in order to provide you with the best offer.  In all cases, the manufacture of custom-made parts requires a paid study to ensure a good understanding of your project and the drawing up of plans. Depending on the complexity and size of the project, the cost of this study varies between CHF 360 and CHF 2000. 

5. Where can I find pictures about realised projects

We are collecting pictures sent to us by our customers via the following link https://www.activ-glass.com/solarterra-references . The majority of the projects were realised in Switzerland and Germany.  We also have several video reportages at our disposal http://video.activ-glass.com/

6. Where does SolarTerra come from and where is it manufactured?

The SolarTerra solution was developed in 2017 by Activ'Glass (Issol Switzerland AG - Registration No CHE-491.777.136) and the CSEM (Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology). It was originally developed in response to a request from the Swiss cultural heritage department of the canton of Fribourg, which was looking for a solution to install photovoltaic systems on red roofs in the region. After several months of research between art historians and engineers, the SolarTerra solution was born. SolarTerra is now sold exclusively by Activ'Glass (Issol Switzerland AG). Manufacturing is carried out in Italy, in the Vicenza region, by Activ'Glass (Reco srl - Registration No IT04039620283) under the entire responsibility and control of Activ'Glass Issol Switzerland.

7. What are the guarantees of the SolarTerra?

The guarantees offered on the SolarTerra solution are of the same order as for conventional solar panels. The mechanical warranty is 10 years. The performance guarantee is 25 years at 80% of the nominal power. 

8. How to install the SolarTerra?

The SolarTerra solution can be installed as an integrated (BIPV) or "on-top" (BAPV) solution. For integration, we use the Solrif® (www.solrif.com) solution from the Swiss company Ernst Shweizer AG. This is a well-proven solution that allows the SolatTerra to replace tiles or slates. This solution is waterproof and avoids the purchase of tiles or slates on the covered area. As BAPV, the SolarTerra is available either with a standard aluminium frame (Terra Cotta colour) or frameless. In both cases, hooks and clamps similar to those used for standard panel placement are used. Custom cut-outs with or without cells are available for finishing. 

9. What are the steps to implement a project?

Every project goes through a stage of layout of the roof. In general, this is done on the basis of plans and photos. This makes it possible to establish a budget calculated per square metre. Once the layout is known, the choice of the installation system (integrated or superimposed), the dimensioning of the cables and the choice of the inverters must be made. This planning work can be done by Activ'Glass at a very competitive hourly rate. It can also be carried out by one of our partner installers.

1. Obtaining plans and photos

2. Discussion and exchange with the owner of the building

2. Choice of format, colour and installation system

3. Drawing up a layout plan

4. Choice of inverters and wiring plan (DC)

5. Drawing up a budget offer

6. Order of material

7. Installation

8. Commissioning

10. Do you provide assistance for planning and installation? 

If you do not have the necessary skills to carry out your project, you can call on our engineering office for a much lower fee than general design offices will be able to offer you. Our network of installers and roofers can also assist you with your project. In any case, a SolarTerra project requires a layout plan and some dimensioning. Depending on the size of the project, this can be estimated to take between 1 and 3 days. of work. 

11. Do you take care of the installation ?

With the exceptions of large project (> 200m2), we do not carry out the installations ourselves. We rely on a network of experienced installers see the list here. On the other hand, our engineering office is able to study your project if we receive a mandate from you. We write a complete technical dossier with a clear budget. This is a 1 to 3 days work.  The dossier is then given to the installer or roofer so that he can estimate his work and carry out the installation. We accompany him throughout the installation process if necessary. 

12. How much do you charge for a preliminary layout & budget study? 

For a roof of a house without particular complexity, we charge 5 hours of preliminary study at the rate of CHF 120/h or total of CHF 600.  

The deliverable is: 

1. Layout of the roof with the drawings of each individual cut pieces to accommodate the roof geometry

2. Installed power

3. Production yield

4. Solrif.com report with load calculation

5. Budget for SolarTerra and cut pieces (detailed list of material)

6. Budget for hooks and accessories (detailed list of material)

To this, you will have to add the cost of the roofer (installation of the Solar tiles) + the cost of the electrician (DC + AC work). And you will get the total cost of the installation. 

If the roofer or the electrician have questions or if they need remote or on-site support we will apply the same hourly rate (+ travel cost if necessary). 

To be able to deliver this preliminary planning study, we will need

1. Pictures of the buildings and the roof

2. Address of the building or GPS coordinates

2. Orientation of the roof

3. You name and VAT number for invoicing

The study will be done with 10 days of your confirmation upon receipt of prepayment.  You will have to communicate the configuration of you choice see: http://designer.activ-glass.com

13. Do you provide samples?

We receive many requests of samples. It's logical because people like to touch and see the rendering by themselves. We provide A4 format samples  but unfortunately, we cannot do that for free. We ask EUR/CHF 120 per sample, including Express delivery fee. 

Send and email to sample@activ-glass.com with the following details:

We will prepare a pro forma invoice for you. We will ask you for upfront payment and in a maximum of 10 days, the sample will be on your desk! If it's urgent, write "URGENT SAMPLE REQUEST" in the subject of your email.  We try to support you!

Samples are A4 format, terra cotta or copper colour, single glass + back sheet, with one embedded solar cell, no j-box. They are not functional samples, just for appreciation of the aesthetic rendering. 

14. Do you offer other colours or renderings? 

The standard colors for SolarTerra are terracotta, copper (brown) and black.  We are able to offer other colors or different material finishes (patina tiles, roughness, moss on the roof, etc.). For this, you must send us photos or color references (RAL for example).  From there, we will make a sample that will have to be validated by you or by your architect.  The sample will also allow us to evaluate the electrical performance of the parts that will then be manufactured in series.  The cost of developing and manufacturing a specific sample varies between CHF 300 and CHF 2000, depending on the size and requirements.  The samples, usually in A4 format, are manufactured within 3 weeks. 


1. Is the SolarTerra solution made for me? 

SolarTerra is only of interest if you have strict urban requirements or if you simply want to enjoy a beautiful roof. Our proposal is unique. No other solar panel manufacturer is positioned like this. We are proud of our heritage and we want to protect it. We want you to benefit from our passion for "sustainable" and "beautiful". Some will claim that our solution is expensive because they compare it to imported solar panels. In this case, they should not hesitate, solar panels remain their first choice. But if you want beautiful, local and sustainable, then welcome to us.

2. How much does SolarTerra cost compared to a solar panel?

Knowing the price of a solution is important. At Activ'Glass, we have neither the ambition nor the capacity to manufacture at the same price as manufacturers of standard solar panels. The business models are very different. The large solar panel manufacturers do not have the flexibility in terms of colour and shape. But there are cases where this flexibility is essential, otherwise the project cannot be realised. Activ'Glass covers this market segment. A building owner or installer should always consider the possibility of installing standard solar panels first. Because it is simply more economical. If this is not possible or if it is not desired for aesthetic reasons, our solution makes sense. These are different products that should be considered with confidence. If this comparison is still important to you, consider that on average a standard solar panel costs about 150 Swiss francs, while a SolarTerra panel costs about twice that.  

3. How long does it take to amortize this price difference?

It takes 19 months longer or 7% more time over 25 years. In Switzerland, taking into account an average insolation of 1173kWh/h per year per installed kilowatt peak, the price of electricity and a 25 year operating time, the payback time of the SolarTerra is only 19 months longer than the payback time of a standard solar panel. 19 months is the extra time that the SolarTerra has to generate electricity to pay back its extra value compared to the price of a standard panel.  This is the extra cost of making something beautiful. This calculation is absolutely questionable given the parameters on which it is based. If you would like a precise calculation depending on the type of model that will be used, the orientation or the installation system, please contact us and we will involve our design office for a precise calculation.  

4. How can I purchase your product? 

Although end customers can place orders directly with us, it is always best to go through a roofer or installer to make a project. . A SolarTerra project requires an implementation study that can be done by Activ'Glass or by a company in your area. In the end, everyone has to make a living. You can either buy directly from us and find a company to do the design and installation - this has a cost - or you can go directly to a professional that will do the job. Depending on the region you live in, we will be able to introduce you to one of our partners. 


The SolarTerra solution is manufactured exclusively with high efficiency mono-crystalline solar cells (PERC).  Specifically, these are pseudo-square cells in G1 format (158.75mm). The cells efficiency is above 22.3%. On average, these cells have 5.6 Wp.

2. What is the coloring technology used by SolarTerra

We opted to colour the glass. We have chosen to colour the glass. More specifically, we use ceramic pigments that are deposited in a very thin layer on the side two of the front glass. This deposit is then heated to over 800°C during the glass tempering process. These pigments are fused into the glass through a vitrification process. This makes the colour unchangeable over time. This is not a process that we invented. Ceramics date back to the Middle Ages and the stability of colours is well known. However, thanks to the use of modern digital techniques, we are able to deposit very thin layers that make it transparent. Because colours must allow light to pass through. Otherwise, the cells on the back would not produce any electricity. Our secret is managing a complex and somewhat contradictory equation. Giving colour to our products while ensuring maximum transparency. 

There is a second  reliable colouring technique. It is a coloured spacer from the Solaxess company.  We do not use it for our standard TerraCotta and Copper colours but it can be used for other colours (see palette here). 

3. Do you offer custom colours or patterns?

Yes, ceramic printing allows to offer other colours and even to print a patina from an image file (jpg). This allows you to get close to the colours of roofs in a specific region or to aged tiles. A budget for the development of the colour or pattern is required. For a budget of CHF 1,500, we are able to present 3 samples in A4 format, to be chosen according to the customer's wishes. The samples are supplied with a theoretical estimate of the loss caused by the printing and a cost in CHF/m2 for the production of the series. Delay 3-4 weeks.

see: http://colordevelop.activ-glass.com

4. Do you plan do use other PV technologies?

As far as photovoltaic technology is concerned, we do not foresee any change because crystalline technology is by far the most efficient, most widespread and least expensive. Moreover, every year this technology gains a few decimal points in efficiency. It is the right choice and will remain so for a long time. 

5. Do you plan do use other coloring technologies like Solaxess? 

Yes, since April 2022, we also offer colours through the use of the Swiss company Solaxess spacer. For small series, the price is quite similar to the price of traditional ceramic printing. The yields are also comparable.  For large runs of single pieces, over 300 m2, the cost of a Solaxess coloured spacer becomes more attractive.  The colours currently available with Solaxess are as follows

6. Where can I find mounting accessories?

Accessories for Solrif are purchased directly from Ernst Schweizer AG. For standard fames or framesless versions, the hooks and clams can be purchased from https://www.alumerogroup.eu/en/products/solar/laminate-clamps see references: Artikel-Nr: 17200 Produkt-Nr: 800323 Laminatmittelklemme CLICK 3.0 L=100mm & Artikel-Nr: 17201 Produkt-Nr: 800324 Laminatendklemme CLICK 3.0 L=100 mm (Catalogue)

7. Is the product resistant to hail (class 4) and heavy snow loads? 

The SolarTerra solution was developed on behalf of the Swiss heritage protection authorities. One of the most important criteria is the durability of the product. In Switzerland, the average lifespan of a roof is 50 years. Our solution had to meet this criterion. That is why the SolarTerra is available in a glass/glass version that meets this requirement. The snow load is up to 7800 Pa. This configuration makes the product much stronger than a standard solar panel. Our manufacturing criteria go beyond the IEC61215 standard used for the manufacture of solar panels. We apply the standards for laminated glass (EN 12543-4). Therefore, our solution is safer than any other solar panel in case of heavy hail. 

Our SolarTerra product range has not been tested to the Class 4 standard. The main reason for this is that SolarTerra is available in a glass-to-glass version whose strength calculations show that this configuration far exceeds the requirements of the Class 4 standard.

8. What is the difference between 4800Pa (glass/back sheet) or 7200Pa version (glass/glass)

Answer in summary:

4800Pa Glass/Backsheet

- 10 years mechanical warranty / 25 years performance warranty

- Normal snow conditions, not walkable (Lifetime > 25 years)

- Might be replaced after 25 years for more modern/efficient solution

7200Pa Glass/Glass

- 10 years mechanical warranty / 25 years performance warranty

- Heavy snow load, walkable (Lifetime > 40 years)

- Matches the average lifespan of a traditional roof

- Very robust due to the neutral fibre (superior mechanical strengths due to the behaviour of 2 laminated glasses)

- More costly

In details: 

The SolarTerra was originally developed for listed buildings. The idea behind the 7200Pa version was to match the average lifespan of a traditional roof. Since we are replacing tiles, which have an average life of 40 years, we had to come up with a solution that we could be sure would last as long. 

This is not to say that the 4800Pa version is of poor quality. Certainly not, but the likelihood of matching the lifetime of an old roof is lower. The price difference is also significant. 

With the 4800Pa version, a decision will probably be made to replace the panels with more modern ones after 20 or 25 years. This is not the case with the 7200Pa version, which will be left on the roof for as long as possible, because this version is primarily a tile that has to last a long time and less importance is given to the technological evolution and electrical efficiency of the solution.

Both solutions have high quality standards. 

In case of maintenance requiring the panels to be walked on, the 4800Pa version is not suitable as the weight of a man will damage the cells with a risk of breaking the glass. The 7200Pa version is walkable. The mechanical phenomenon of neutral fibre makes this version more than twice as strong. It is also much more resistant in high mountains due to the weight of the snow.