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Solar Energy

Clearly a solution of the future given that in Belgium - despite cloudy skies - 60% of domestic hot water needs can be covered by solar energy on an annual basis.

How do you collect sunlight in your home?

Passive thermal solar power

This is the simplest system, as rooms in your home are heated by sunlight through windows. Glass panes facing south can allow you to save energy. You then need to have floors and walls that absorb the heat and blinds are necessary to prevent overheating during hot summer days.

Active thermal solar power

In this instance sunlight is collected, transformed, stored and distributed. Its most prevalent use is the solar boiler for heating sanitary water, but it is also suitable for heating swimming pools, for air cooling and for the desalinisation of sea water in locations where drinking water is in scarce supply.
The investment can be paid for using a wide range of subsidies. You are given the support of the electricity distribution operators for a wide range of municipal authorities and some local authorities and there is a tax deduction of up to a maximum of € 3,440 per annum from the federal government. You can also take advantage of a renovation benefit when installing a solar boiler.

Photovoltaic solar power (PV installation)

Using this system sunlight is converted into electricity. With this installation the electricity meter is re-wound  and for each kilowatt hour less you are given a reward of 15 cents and another 45 cents is added to this thanks to a subsidy regulation. Beware, there is no point in over-investing. Producing more electricity than that which you require on an annual basis is not a good idea, as you are not given anything extra if you go below zero.
In this instance too you qualify for a tax allowance of up to a maximum of € 3,440 per annum and a number of municipalities also provide investment support. (Source: De Standaard, FOD Economie)

The prosThe cons
  • A renewable, sustainable energy source, which cannot be exhausted by human use
  • Ease and simplicity of the technique (flat solar panels)
  • Various subsidies and grants from the State, regional and local authorities
  • Easy to use
  • High investment for solar panels
  • prohibitive investment for photovoltaic cells

New windows generate power

American scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston have developed a solar panel that is transparent to light like a window whilst at the same time converting ten times more sunlight into energy.
The current solar panels are fully coated with solar cells and usually panels are fitted onto the roof. They only offer optimal efficiency when the panels are pointing south and are collecting sunlight all day, which can represent a problem for some homes.
Researchers have discovered that this is no longer a requirement because the solar cells only concentrate light along the edges of the glass surface. As a result following the sun is no longer a requirement.
In the future windows will most probably have a twin function: allowing light in at the same time as generating power.

Planning permission is no longer required for solar panels

On 27 June the Flemish government approved a proposal to ensure that planning permission is no longer required when installing solar panels and solar boilers on roofs. The application procedure for homes that fall under specific provisions of subdivision permits, "PBAs" and Town and Country working plans has been simplified.
Whoever currently wishes to fit solar panels or solar boilers on a flat roof does not require a town planning licence. Also in the case of solar panels on a pitched roof an exemption applies if the panels take up a maximum of 20 per cent of the roof area. Planning permission is required for larger surface areas.

Time-consuming procedure

Property owners must still make sure that the fitting of solar panels does not contravene, for example, a provision or a subdivision regulation, which imposes constraints or obligations governing roof constructions. If that is the case and the solar panels take up more than 20 per cent and less than 50 per cent of the roof area, then a licence can be obtained after making an application to deviate from the valid provisions. Above 50 per cent of the roof area a subdivision amendment is always required.
This last procedure, in particular, is extremely long-winded, time-consuming and costly because when applying for a subdivision amendment all residents of the plot in question must be involved and questioned. As a result the current regulations have been broken down into two possible scenarios.

Two possible scenarios:

  1. All roofs of buildings that do not fall under special provisions of subdivision permits, "PBAs" or Town and Country working plans,  are exempt from planning permission in full. This does not apply in respect of protected monuments or buildings that are included in the inventory of architectural heritage or that are located in protected rural areas or national parks.
  2. For all roofs on buildings that do fall under special provisions of subdivision permits, "PBAs" or Town and Country working plans, you can obtain planning permission irrespective of the surface area by means of a deviation to the subdivision permit. Only if the subdivision regulations contain an explicit prohibition on fitting solar panels and solar boilers, the procedure for amending the subdivision permit continues to apply.

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