After my solar research visit in Halle, I took an overnight bus to the other side of Germany. To the city of Cologne. I had planned to meet my friend Marlene, whom I met in Mexico four years ago. Since we met at a hostel in Cancun, and ended up travelling together a month in Central-America, we have travelled together once a year. It´s crazy how close you get when you experience so much together. Everytime we meet, it´s like it was yesterday we got lost in the Tikal Jungle together, hitchhiked with the locals in Honduras and jumped into the great Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The friendship jumps back to where we left it the year before, everytime.
Spending a weekend in Cologne with my friend was exactly what I needed after travelling alone for a month. It can get rather lonely here in Europe, as I´m travelling so fast I don´t get time to make new friends like I normally to when I´m backpacking. But after an amazing weekend, I felt recharged and was ready to start travelling alone again. Fresh energy, and two fresh new countries to explore! Ready for Luxembourg and Belgium!
I took another long distance bus and spent a full day exploring Luxembourg, followed by two more train rides to get to Bruges in Belgium.
The beauty of Bruges completely blew me away. What a place! Narrow streets surrounding the many canals, bridges and colorful houses. And oh, the many, massive churches. The tiny cafees and restaurants in the narrow streets, with outside seating in the sun. Most likely the pretties city in Europe.
I also visited Gent and Brussels, which obviously also was extremely beautiful. As I didn’t do a lot of research on Belgium before I went, the cities in this country completely blew me away! After some sightseeing days, I finally got to the goal! A small place outside of Liege, where the BIPV specialist Issol has their hearquarter.
Issol is a solar glass manufacturer and a project developer of what they call “Active Glazing Solutions”. Which means they make glass that’s not just glass. It´s glass with the ability to produce energy, and their job is to make pieces that can replace normal building materials.
They picked me up at the train station in the morning, their HQ was only 30 min outside of Liege. After a few minutes in the car, we arrived at their office and factory building. A large building, covered with solar, which they obviously had made themselves. They manufacture all their modules right here at their own factory in Belgium. All the pieces to all their projects. They took me through their factory, and I could see the workers all doing different pieces.
One can say Issol has specialized in specializing. Their idea is to always be able to make exactly what the architect or costumer wants. That requires a lot of creativity I would assume. Obviously, they make the standards too, but most of their pieces are specially made to fit the costumer’s exact needs and wishes in every single project. That´s their market position, and that’s where they are able to stand out in the crowd.
I asked what they do to sell this, if they don’t rely on the standards like most manufacturers do. They told me costumers usually contact them. They rarely have the need to go out and sell. I guess their reputation and reference projects speak for themselves.
When I was travelling through France earlier this spring, I went to Perpignan in south of France with the sole goal to visit the train station. I took the train to Perpignan, just to spend an hour checking out the train station, only to take the next train back again. The reason being that Issol had made a massive waveformed see-through BIPV roof on it, which I really wanted to see.
During my visit, the whole Issol team came to say hello, and I got a good presentation of the company, as well as a tour of their entire factory. Thank you so much Issol, for showing me a new part of the solar world!
Stay tuned for the next part of the Solar Journey – Eurotrip!