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roof with photovoltaics © Christophe Fouquin/Terreal

Using Roofs: How wienerberger is Pushing Solar Solutions

Solar power on the rise: Julien Chnebierk and Elöd Albert from wienerberger on rooftop photovoltaics and where the trend is taking Europe and the company.

26.06.2024 8 min

You both have many years of experience in the photovoltaic industry. Now you are taking solar power forward at wienerberger. What do your jobs involve?

Julien Chnebierk: I have been working at Terreal, a supplier of clay building materials and photovoltaic solutions since 1998. In early 2024, we became part of wienerberger in France, Italy, Spain and the USA, and in Germany with Creaton. As the Director of Solar Solutions, I work on new solutions to boost the solar power business and on implementing our strategic roadmap. In addition, I am Strategy, CSR & Integration Director for France and Managing Director at GSE Intégration (GSEi) a subsidiary in which we hold a 51 percent stake.

Elöd Albert: One of my core tasks is to gradually integrate photovoltaics into the world of wienerberger – from training programs to digital tools for photovoltaic design to technical documentation and after-sales. Together with colleagues here in Vienna and in our markets, we are creating the necessary framework conditions to successfully expand the solar power business. I was also responsible for developing our strategic photovoltaic roadmap. I am very much looking forward to seeing its implementation. 

What potential do you see for rooftop photovoltaic systems? And what role can wienerberger play in the Europe-wide expansion?

Elöd Albert: We expect a slow but gradual saturation of simple roof areas for photovoltaic systems on residential buildings – particularly in mature photovoltaics markets, fueled by the extraordinary strong growth rates of recent years. At the same time, in a growing number of EU markets, regulators are creating the conditions that will make the operation of shared photovoltaic systems economically viable. As a result of these developments, we will see, to a certain extent, a shift from the dominant retrofit photovoltaics market towards new build projects and renovations and from single family homes to apartment blocks. wienerberger can play a key role here.

Julien Chnebierk: That is true. In Europe, approximately 10 million residential buildings are fitted with photovoltaic systems. Another one million are added every year and demand is rising continuously. As a solutions expert for the complete building envelope and for water and energy management wienerberger plays a key role here. Our strength is that we appeal to a range of segments and target groups and are able to cater to their individual requirements thanks to our close cooperation with roofers and solar installers, as well as with construction companies. 

“In Europe, approximately 10 million residential buildings are fitted with photovoltaic systems. Another one million are added every year and demand is rising continuously.”

Julien Chnebierk

Julien Chnebierk

Director Solar Solutions, wienerberger

Julien Faure

Looking at the bigger picture: How do the European markets for photovoltaic systems differ from one another?

Julien Chnebierk: It comes as a surprise to many people that the biggest markets for photovoltaic systems are Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – and not the sunny countries in the south. The reasons for this range from higher energy prices to stricter regulation. As regulations, market cycles and needs differ from one country to the next, we adapt our strategies to the individual market. Nor are certifications, such as those for sustainability, harmonized in Europe. This means that in some cases we analyze and test products according to the standards in multiple countries. On the other hand, we’re pleased that these developments are pushing other relevant issues to the forefront – for example, the recycling of solar modules and thus the circular economy.

What other developments do you see in the area of rooftop solar power solutions? And what challenges do they present?

Julien Chnebierk: Interest in photovoltaic systems is growing – especially among homeowners and roofers. We therefore train professionals such as roofers to work with our solar solutions so they can cope with this rising demand. Nevertheless, there is still a shortage of skilled personnel. The solar market is booming and concentrating rapidly. Take France for example, where there is fierce competition. Everyone wants to be in on the game, and this is pushing down prices. In some cases, standard solar panels are put on the market for less than what it costs to develop and manufacture them. In this environment, it is hard to remain profitable.

Elöd Albert: I have been working in the solar industry for more than ten years. Nowadays, nobody asks whether photovoltaic systems make sense – in the last three years, the general perception of “electricity” has evolved from something cheap and anonymous that comes out of the power socket to a precious commodity. As well as the financial advantages, achieving home energy independence has now become an important priority for many residential buyers.

It will also be interesting to see how the individual EU countries implement the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive that requires all buildings to be solar ready. This directive will initially apply to newly built public and commercial buildings but by 2030 will be extended to cover new residential buildings, renovations and existing buildings. This offers new business potential for our in-roof photovoltaic solutions. This “solar obligation” will compel those decision-makers who until now have rejected on-roof systems, for example, for aesthetic reasons, to think long and hard about photovoltaic systems.


Photovoltaik in roof © GSE Intégration

Solar power for single-family homes: A total of 61 houses in Veghel, the Netherlands, were equipped with this in-roof solution from GSEi.

There are three types of photovoltaic solution for pitched roofs:

  • Roof-mounted or on-roof solutions: Solar panels are fixed to the roof using mounting systems.
  • In-roof solutions: Photovoltaic panels are integrated into the roof and blend harmoniously with the roof tiles.
  • Solar roof tiles: The solar cells are integrated into roof tiles that resemble traditional shingles. 

“Standard modules often reach their limits on complex roof shapes. With X-Roof and X-Tile we offer optimal in-roof solutions for complex roof situations. These allow us to generate more solar power from the available roof area than is possible with standard modules.”

Elöd Albert

Elöd Albert

Business Development Manager Photovoltaics, wienerberger

Talking about building-integrated photovoltaics: What solutions does wienerberger offer for energy systems?

Julien Chnebierk: The great thing about wienerberger is that we have so many different approaches. Our main focus is on residential construction and on in-roof solutions for pitched roofs. The majority of PV installations today consist of standard solar panels mounted on existing roofs. However, we can score with high-quality in-roof photovoltaic solutions. The most cost-efficient option: To integrate standard modules into the roof. These can be customized to make them even more visually appealing – as is the case with our Wevolt range. The high-end solution are solar roof tiles, which are better able to adapt to different roof styles.

Elöd Albert: I firmly believe that in the next five years building integrated photovoltaics (bipv) will take a significant share of the market. In my opinion, our GSEi brand solutions with integrated standard modules are going to be the volume driver in years to come. With X-Roof and X-Tile we can offer optimal in-roof solutions for complex roof situations as well. These allow us to generate more solar power from the available roof area than is possible with standard modules.

wienerberger is constantly expanding its portfolio and expertise: How do your target groups benefit from the integrated solutions competence? 

Elöd Albert: End customers usually contact a roofer when they renovate their roof. With wienerberger’s support, roofers are able to offer a comprehensive all-in solution for roof renovation that includes integrated photovoltaics. Our ambition is to offer our customers complete solutions for the entire building envelope from a single source. This includes everything from roof tiles and photovoltaic systems to heating systems, heat pumps and the like.


Julien Chnebierk: Our combination of expertise and solutions is unique. At the same time, we are always finding new ways to utilize synergies. One example: For some time now, Terreal has been supporting construction firms, roofers and solar installers who want to move into photovoltaics. In addition to our easy-to-install complete solution, we offer technical training as well as digital tools for the management and planning of PV projects. We are now introducing this concept in other countries as well.

Photovoltaic roof tiles © Wienerberger B.V.

A villa with a Wevolt X-roof: Integrated photovoltaic solutions are ideal for complex roof shapes.

An increasing number of people want to generate solar power on their own roof. What factors do they have to take into consideration?

Julien Chnebierk: I tell anyone who is considering a solar system what a good investment it is. It pays for itself by slashing your electricity bill and increasing the value of your property. If you work with professionals, you get a durable solution with minimum risk. That’s good for your wallet and for our planet.

Elöd Albert: I agree with you. Designing the photovoltaic system correctly and making smart use of the solar power that is generated are crucial for profitability. It is therefore worth hiring the relevant skilled tradespeople who have specialist expertise across multiple disciplines. There is also a growing trend towards putting the installation of photovoltaic modules back in the hands of experienced roofers. This gives end customers certainty in terms of quality as well as a warranty. Unfortunately, when the hype about solar power was at its peak between 2021 and 2023, but also because of the shortage of skilled workers, countless photovoltaic system installations were not carried out properly. 

Let’s take a look into the crystal ball: How do you see the future of rooftop energy systems?


Elöd Albert: In the long term, let’s say up to 2030 and beyond, I believe that building integrated photovoltaics will become part and parcel of solar solutions. An important aspect of this is the increasing efficiency of solar cells. Each year, we are getting more power per square meter for the same price. Bearing in mind increasing urbanization, it makes sense to implement photovoltaic solutions on all suitable building surfaces, by which I mean the complete building envelope. I am convinced that in the long term, on-roof photovoltaics will only retain a strong market share in the retrofit segment where they are mounted on existing roofs that do not need to be renovated. And even here, they will only be the preferred system for price-sensitive decision-makers. Those who want to get as much power as possible out of their roof surface or who are even remotely concerned about aesthetics will opt for a building-integrated photovoltaic solution.

Julien Chnebierk: There is strong growth ahead in this segment, driven by factors such as falling investment costs, the desire for energy independence and new regulations. I see a great deal of potential. And wienerberger is well-positioned here with a powerful presence in the building industry, a wide range of solutions and good relationships with the relevant players.

Julien Chnebierk © Julien Faure

About Julien Chnebierk

Julien Chnebierk has worked for Terreal for more than 25 years – including twelve in Malaysia and Indonesia. Even before the merger with wienerberger, the 47-year-old Frenchman had held a number of managerial positions and was involved with integrations within the company such as those of GSEi and Creaton. As Director Solar Solutions he is now driving forward the expansion of solar activities at wienerberger. In addition, he holds the position of Strategy, CSR & Integration Director for France and Managing Director at GSEi. In both his professional and personal life, the father of three who has a master’s degree in business management follows the three-word motto: Relaxation, intensity and passion. 

Elöd Albert © wienerberger

About Elöd Albert

Elöd Albert is Business Development Manager Photovoltaics at wienerberger. The Upper Austrian with a Master’s degree in Business Administration has spent most of his working life focusing on recycling and photovoltaics. Today, the 41-year-old father benefits from the relationships he has cultivated with planners and fitters of solar systems. Thus, Elöd Albert knows what matters to the heroes of the energy transition. Having joined wienerberger at the beginning of 2023 he is excited about making his contribution to the energy transition with solar solutions.

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