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Developing a both ecological and business wise sustainable mounting frame for solar panels

Sustainable Cities and Communities; Climate Action; Responsible Consumption and Production; Affordable and Clean Energy


Solar energy plays a key role in the transition towards a fully sustainable energy society. One of the options is to develop fields with solar panels. The Natuur en Milieufederaties (the Dutch NGO Federation for Nature and Environmental Protection) supports the energy transition but also acts as the guardian of the ecological value in cases of solar fields. 

One of the ideas are the Energy Gardens where we explore adding new functionalities to these solar fields. Think of, but not limited to, increasing biodiversity, recreational possibilities, educational options, innovative fieldlabs and citizen engagement in the energy transition. To do so, they launched a project to develop “Energy Gardens” ( This requires solutions where sustainability, ecology and business models coexist.

Our challenge 

The solar panels are mounted on frames. These frames are made of Zinc coated steel. Our assumption is that this is not the best solution in terms of ecology, sustainability and businesswise. But we are not sure. 

What is the ecological impact of these steel frames, both during production and use? Can you develop more sustainable alternatives? What are the benefits of reengineering the panels with recycled materials or biobased materials? What is the impact of these solutions during the realization of solar fields? And during lifetime? Are they cost effective and how much does the new solution contribute to the sustainability goals of the Energy Gardens?

We challenge you to develop more sustainable solutions compared to the existing frame.

Expected impact

The work of the students will lead to better understanding of the sustainability impact of the current frame and the potential (both from technical, sustainable and economic point of view) of alternative solutions. This stimulates solar park developers to consider these alternatives, especially the partners in the Energy Gardens.

Target group 

The target group consists of professional solar park developers and local governments who set rules and regulations for solar parks.

Student Groups  

The challenge might be attractive for students in engineering, design, business and sustainability studies.

Deadline for applications : 2021-02-14