The solar power industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, and one of the biggest reasons behind this continued growth is a dramatic drop in price. The average solar energy system now costs about half of what it did in 2010, which has obviously made it much easier for home and business owners to incorporate solar into their buildings. While the majority of these systems still use traditional solar panels, one area that seems set to have a huge impact in the future is the use of building-integrated photovoltaics.
A Brief Intro to Building-Integrated Photovoltaics
As you can probably tell from the name, building-integrated photovoltaics are a way of incorporating PV solar cells directly into the structure of a building rather than installing them over the top. This eliminates the need for bulky mounting equipment and also ensures a much more pleasing aesthetic appearance. In fact, the majority of BIPV technologies are so well integrated as to be virtually invisible.
Compared to traditional solar panels, BIPV materials serve two distinct purposes. One purpose is obviously to capture solar radiation and generate energy. However, the second and equally important purpose is structural in the sense that BIPV materials actually replace traditional building materials. For instance, solar shingles can be installed instead of traditional roofing materials. Solar cells can also be directly integrated into the façade materials or special solar glazing can be applied over the windows to increase day lighting.
The Benefits of Using BIPV in New Construction Projects
No matter what type of new construction you focus on, building-integrated photovoltaics can hold huge potential for any commercial construction company and their clients. The improved aesthetic is obviously one of the major reasons people choose to utilize BIPV instead of installing traditional solar panels on the roof. However, utilizing BIPV technology for the roof, façade and other parts of the structure also provides much more energy generating potential since more of the exterior surface will be covered with solar cells.
As BIPV is integrated directly into the building’s exterior structure, it is obviously much easier to utilize in new construction projects. Nonetheless, there is also an increase in the use of building-added photovoltaics, which basically uses the same technology and retrofits it into an existing structure.
Both BIPV and BAPV are excellent methods for improving the energy efficiency of new and existing construction. By incorporating these technologies, business owners can obviously help cut their energy costs. As well, these systems could function to provide emergency backup power if a battery is included within the system.
The Future of BIPV
For many years, BIPV suffered due to high prices and low efficiency. Many of the first solar shingles were far too inefficient to justify their cost, but all of this is quickly beginning to change as PV solar technology improves and more manufacturers begin jumping on the bandwagon. Already we’ve seen the announcement that Tesla will soon starting selling solar roof tiles, which it claims will cost almost the same price as a standard roof.
If manufacturers can start producing BIPV materials that cost the same as traditional building materials, this could truly revolutionize not only the construction industry but the world in general. The International Energy Agency predicts that solar power will be the leading source of electricity by 2050. However, we could see this happening much sooner if BIPV continues to improve at such a rapid rate.