January 22, 2018

Building Integrated Photovoltaics

A Glimpse into the Future

Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). I’ve written about this before but I feel it needs more mention. Clearly, when it comes to the construction of buildings, it is the way we should all be heading.

For those who aren’t yet up with the play – simply put, BIPV involves directly cladding or roofing parts of a building with Solar Panels, thus energising the whole building’s structure. The BIPV panels draw their energy from the sun and deliver that energy throughout the building.

I don’t know about you, but seeing all those solar panels being applied on top of the roofs of houses it occurred to me that those panels – with some modification of course – could be the roofing material in themselves. And I wasn’t far off the mark. This is where BIPV is at. The cladding and/or the roofing can be loaded with Photovoltaics, and this is where glass comes into it: the Photovoltaics are integrated within glass panels.

The old (still current though) system of placing solar panels on your roof is termed BAPV (Building Applied Photovoltaics), but BIPV has distinct advantages over BAPV.

The following is an excerpt from an article by Marc Thomas, the General Manager of Dyesol Limited’s Global Glass Business and CEO of the company’s North American subsidiary, Dyesol Inc, based in Ohio. In it, he explains some of the clear advantages and also the industry’s concerns about costing:

“One of the key differentiators of BIPV from BAPV is that BIPV ‘substitutes’ existing building materials. Substitution creates significant economic advantage over BAPV. In new construction, building costs are attributed to facades and glazing products. These building products must be purchased from the suppliers, transported to the site and installed into the building superstructure. Since these costs are already included in the cost of the building, the added cost of enabling the products photovoltaic capability is reduced to the cost of the technology itself, electrical connectivity and inversion.

Project BIPV by ISSOL - Gare TGV de Perpignan
The original cost of the substrates, transportation, and installation are already included in the cost of the building and BIPV products often offer a higher insulation value, which also contributes to energy conservation. In essence, BIPV will not only generate power, but also reduce energy consumption. Additionally, enabling traditional building materials with high embodied energy costs to help create energy helps offset the manufacturing carbon footprint.
BIPV can be seamlessly integrated into the building envelope – which appeals to architects, designers, builders and property owners. BIPV enabling technologies include crystalline silicon, also known as solar grade silicon; thin film; organic solar cells, which can be processed from solution and offer the potential for inexpensive, large-scale production; and dye-sensitized solar cells, which are made of low-cost materials that do not require elaborate or high energy consuming manufacturing equipment. These third generation solar technologies can be used in a variety of building applications, including roofing, façade, and glazing.”

Well Europe, and especially Germany, is the leader in this field – but who has more sunshine? Aussie Aussie Aussie – Oi Oi Oi!