Building Integrated Photovoltaics

Imagine an electric power generator that looks and functions like a hotel, office building, manufacturing plant, hospital or retail outlet; it has no moving parts, it is noiseless, non-polluting, and operates on a free energy source. Welcome to the exciting and growing world of Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) systems. In an increasing effort to design buildings with a life-cycle approach, renewable energy technologies have attracted the attention of the building industry for a long time. In particular, the modularity and simplicity of photovoltaic (PV) panels make solar PV the most promising renewable energy technology for integration into buildings. BIPV materials are defined as a building product which meets both the mechanical and aesthetic requirements of a building material while also serving to convert sunlight into useful electricity. As a building material, a BIPV product deals with the same issues as the traditional elements it replaces: appearance, weather tightness, wind loading, lifetime, UV exposure, safety and cost. Rather than tacking PV modules onto existing structures as an afterthought, building integrated PV captures the value of both the replaced building product and the PV module in a single product. When intelligently integrated into buildings, PV technologies are attractive multifunctional materials that perform all of the traditional functions of façade materials while simultaneously generating carbon-free electricity. A major benefit of BIPV systems is the alignment of peak electricity generation with peak demand. Commercial and industrial buildings typically reach peak energy use in the afternoon when both electricity prices and the energy output of BIPV installations is the greatest. By generating renewable energy on-site during periods of peak demand, buildings with BIPV systems not only help relieve congestion on the electrical grid but also significantly lower their electricity bills. For commercial customers, on-site PV generation creates a strong green and high-tech image. In addition, daylighting (using natural light from the sun rather than electrical lighting) in businesses and commercial buildings can result in substantial savings on electric bills. Currently, most BIPV products in the market are targeted for roofing systems, replacing traditional shingles, tiles, or membrane materials. Yet integration may also be in vertical facades, replacing view glass, spandrel glass, or cladding materials; or in horizontal glass materials such as skylights, canopies, or atriums. While the PV market has been growing extremely rapidly over the past several years, most large PV companies have yet to make significant inroads into the potentially vast BIPV market. To date the BIPV market has yet to deliver on its promising potential. Current global BIPV sales are less than $2 billion annually, with significant growth forecasted over the coming decade. To deliver on that promise, new and innovative materials like HoloSun™ will be required.

Traditional PV BIPV