Ask installers what they think about building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and the common answer is ‘it’s too expensive’. What many in the industry forget is that BIPV is primarily a building material – and as such can be cost-competitive on a per square meter comparison with other exterior cladding systems. Add to that the ability to generate free power and save energy, for an increasing number of applications you have a very attractive building solution.
BIPV benefits for installers
So how can installers take advantage of the growing interest in this multi-functional building product?
Installers should seek out MCS-certified products that are readily available and offer short project lead-in times.
Thin-film amorphous silicon (a-Si) with transparent conductors on both sides of the active PV material provides improved efficiency and performance where traditional solar PV panels are unsuitable. Such panels work in non-optimal positions, such as east-west elevations, performing well in low light conditions.
Amorphous silicon panels also maintain efficiency at higher temperatures and, because they can be connected in parallel, are unaffected if one module becomes shaded.
Installers unable to offer installations to customers that don’t have a south-facing roof or, for example, live in a conservation area, now have an opportunity to provide BIPV structures that work effectively in many positions. Furthermore, BIPV glass can be integrated into a range of residential structures such as carports, canopies, balconies, sheds and even greenhouses.
Commercial applications, such as curtain walls and façades cladding allow BIPV to be used effectively in vertical positions. BIPV is particularly ideal for both architects, who are striving for an aesthetically pleasing design, and facilities and energy managers who, perhaps due to limited roof space, are keen to incorporate renewable and energy efficient technologies so that building regulations are met.