The makers of components in the new canopies for two Sainsbury’s forecourts are claiming a world first in that the forecourt roof not only contains photovoltaic (PV) glass to generate electricity but is also transparent.

Hamish Watson, managing director of Polysolar, said: “These canopies use Polysolar’s laminated PV glass that lets through light to the forecourt, reducing the need for artificial lighting, while generating clean renewable electricity from sunlight to help power the filling station.

“The solar PV technology is not only uniquely transparent, giving a warm orange tinted light to the forecourt, the panels also work on both sides, using reflective and ambient light, rather than requiring direct sunlight - making them ideal for non optimal positions such as flat roofs, and producing a higher energy yield over the year.”

Watson said there are further benefits from the Polysolar system because it is an integral part of the canopy, rather than added on like conventional solar panels, producing savings in construction cost and giving the roof a slimline profile.

The canopies are at the new Sainsbury’s stores at Leicester and Weymouth, which have been unveiled as the flagship stores for its environmental policy. They have been dubbed triple zero stores by Sainsbury’s because they are designed to be environmentally neutral in terms of energy, waste and water.

Watson said he expected the canopies would generate between a third and a quarter of the service stations’ energy requirements each year.

Paul Crewe, Sainsbury’s head of sustainability, engineering & energy, said Sainsbury’s was still trialling the concept, adding: “It’s a brand new technology. I’m proud to say that once we have a technology that we’ve proved and tested and it’s commercially viable, we do support a roll-out. Once we’ve gone through the analysis, and have a clear understanding of the commercial and the operational benefits, we would consider utilising this technology in future petrol stations, or to retrofit existing petrol stations, as a replacement to the standard steel box roof.”