A new solar photovoltaic (PV) technology could replace solar panels in building-integrated PV installations, researchers claim.

The solar glass blocks are being developed by researchers at the UK’s University of Exeter.

According to the researchers, the blocks are similar to Tesla’s solar tiles and can be incorporated into the fabric of buildings through new construction or retrofits.

The researchers believe that their blocks, as well as providing power for buildings, have better thermal insulation properties than traditional glass blocks used by the construction industry.

The patent-pending technology is currently at the prototype stage and the researchers say they are in the process of fine-tuning their designs in order to test the blocks at pilot sites.

A startup company, called Build Solar, has been created to market and produce the blocks. The team is currently seeking investment to support commercial testing, and aim to take their product to market next year.

Dr Hasan Baig, founder of Build Solar and research fellow at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, said: “BIPV is a growing industry with a 16 per cent annual growth rate. Setting up a company which can cater to this growing market shall prove beneficial for the UK economy in the long term.”

Jim Williams, co-inventor of the blocks and Exeter’s research commercialization manager in Cornwall, added: “It’s now clear that the world is moving to a distributed energy system, of which a growing proportion is renewable.

“This, coupled with the shift to electric vehicles means that there are substantial opportunities for new ways of generating electricity at the point of use”.