Solar panels that mimic terracotta bricks are now powering Pompeii

These innovative options aim to match sustainability with conservation and protection.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Solar panels disguised as ancient Roman tiles.
Solar panels disguised as ancient Roman tiles.


Pompeii receives over 3.5 million tourists each year from all over the world that come to admire the ruins left by the eruption of the Vesuvius that, in 79 AD, engulfed the city

None of them, however, are likely to notice the solar panels disguised as ancient Roman tiles or terracotta bricks. These are sustainable solutions adopted by the archaeological park of Pompeii and the Portuguese city of Evora to embrace eco-friendly developments.

"They look exactly like the terracotta tiles used by the Romans, but they produce the electricity that we need to light the frescoes," said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. 

"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."

Traditional PV tiles

These new tiles are called "traditional PV tiles" and come from Camisano Vicentino, a little Italian town halfway between Padua and Vicenza. They were developed and patented by the family business Dyaqua.

"It is me, my father, my mother, and my brother," said Elisabetta Quagliato. "Since photovoltaic production is increasing, we are expanding and now have two employees."

The concept came about from her father, Giovanni Battista, who "wanted to solve the problem of spotlights in public areas, which spoil the view once they are switched off."

The traditional PV tiles are made from a polymer compound that allows them to resemble tiles made of conventional materials. "We can also give it the look of stone, wood, concrete, and brick. As a result, such a solution can be installed not only on roofs but also on walls and floors," said Quagliato.

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Another similar technology used in Pompeii is called Tegosolar. 

"While the traditional PV tiles will cover the roof of the City Hall, we are in charge of a sports hall, a scientific center, and two parking lots," said in the press release Graziano Peterle  Research and Development Manager at Tegola Canadese, another company bringing solar technology to Italy's cities.

"Unlike traditional photovoltaic panels, which are external elements, our solution consists of a proper roofing material."

Peterle added that Tegosolar offers an aesthetic benefit because it doesn't protrude from the roof and it is invisible from the road. Solutions like Tegosolar and traditional PV tiles help to match sustainability with conservation and protection.

"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," concluded Francesca Giliberto, an architect specialized in conservation and management and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds.

This report was first published in a press release by the company.

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