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Building Integrated Photovoltaics

Updated on July 16, 2016

BIPV - Building Integrated Photovoltaics

Long in development, with scientists and investors holding high hopes for the new technology, we are finally seeing building integrated photovoltaics (also known as BIPV) make significant strides.

The term generally refers to the use of thin-film solar on rooftops and/or the sides of buildings to literally integrate solar energy generation into construction materials. Instead of clunky, thick solar panels mounted on your rooftop, BIPV includes "peel and stick" solar panels, solar windows, solar paint and solar shingles.

Not only are they more aesthetically pleasing, but they're easier to install and less expensive. Just take a look at the photograph to the right, and then consider what the view would be like if the homeowner had installed PV panels instead.

The technology has advanced to the point that several solar manufacturers have announced plans to market various BIPV components to consumers this year:

Market analysts are expecting Dow Chemical and Johns Manville to lead the way with the sale of solar shingles and other flexible thin film solar products.

Thin Film Solar Roofing

Solar Roofing

Solar roofing using BIPV technology consists primarily of solar shingles or solar tiles, but can also incorporate peel and stick solar panels (also known as solar laminate panels). The thin profile is aesthetically pleasing and often virtually invisible, as the roofing material is literally incorporated into the roof itself.

No matter the composition of your roof, you can tap into free solar energy without the hassle and expense of installing solar panels.

Own a metal or flat roof? Then solar laminate panels are for you. Installation is a breeze, as shown in the video above. Got 15 minutes? You can be solar powered that quickly.

As described in a solar power blog:

Appearance isn’t the only positive aspect of these photovoltaic laminates. They are also significantly more affordable than regular PV panels. Their thinner profile means that less materials are required for the same energy production. In addition, they tolerate heat without losing efficiency, as well. In fact, higher temperatures may actually increase the output of the solar laminates.

If you own a home or building with shake shingle or even clay tiles, there are solar roofing options for you, as well. The Solé Power Tile system is the first building-integrated photovoltaic roofing product that has been designed to blend with curved roof tiles. The only thing you’ll notice are significantly lower electricity bills!

Solar roof tiles are designed to be installed so that there is only a 3 inch overlap, leaving the remaining 15 inches of roof tile exposed to UV light. Expect to install approximately 30 tiles per 100 square feet of roof surface, which can generate up to 860 kilowatt-hours annually.

Peel and Stick Solar

Solar Roof Tiles

Solar Paint

Solar Paint

Solar paint is another recent innovation with great promise. The paint incorporates dye-sensitized solar cells under a layer of electrolyte or titanium dioxide and is painted onto sheets of metal.

When sunlight hits the solar cells, it excites molecules that function as light absorbers. Electrons are released into the titanium layer of the paint which acts as a circuit. Electrons move into the dye, generating electricity. Unlike ordinary PV solar cells, solar paint can absorb light across the spectrum, including low radiation frequencies (think of places that are not brightly sunny).

Of course, it is more cost-effective to construct a building with components that incorporate solar paint than later installing solar panels.

Flexible Solar Applications

Solar Windows

Miniature PV cell technology can even be used to coat windows with semi-transparent solar cells. Solar windows are desirable for a number of reasons. A solar film can be rolled onto a window to reduce UV light and glare, and to provide shading for the interior of a building (think about west-facing windows late in the afternoon). The film has an insulating effect - reducing heat during the hottest part of the day, and preventing its escape when it cools down. In other words, while you are capturing solar energy and converting it to free electricity, you can also be lowering your heating and A/C costs.

There are a variety of hues of solar film for windows, and the options range from nearly transparent to heavy shade, depending on your desires.

The technology has also been applied to sun roofs in vehicles - the 2010 Toyota Prius is an excellent example.

Spray On Solar Cells


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    • Hairbiz profile image

      Hairbiz 6 years ago

      I would be a wonderful thing to save our country money by incorporating solar technology into our government and state buildings to eventually lower our taxes. After all it is the public that is footing that bill.

    • Tolerable James profile image

      Tolerable James 6 years ago from Indiana

      Honesty...ah. The number don't lie. Dig the topic Thanks!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Absolutely right! Windows, siding, roofing - it can all be a solar power generator!

    • profile image

      scheng1 8 years ago

      Interesting. I think with the solar paint technology, solar panel needs not appear on rooftop only. The whole building can be a solar power generator.

    • John Dove profile image

      John Dove 8 years ago

      Stephanie - I look forward your reports.


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks John - so much will happen in the next 12-24 months in the solar power arena. Can't wait for new developments. Cheers, Stephanie

    • John Dove profile image

      John Dove 8 years ago

      Hi stephhhicks68:

      Wonderful hub -- full of news and trends on home solar power. A good resource to bookmark! I share your interest and enthusiasm for home solar power -- especially for low cost, DIY, and educational solar topics; and solar power news.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Roberta! I think that in just a few short years, we'll be seeing building codes incorporating requirements pertaining to building integrated photovoltaics. In the meantime, those that install them will enjoy the "cool" factor while they save money on their electricity bills!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Amazing how far solar technology has come in just a few years-- things are moving very quickly and you explain it all so simply and so well-- we are moving in the right direction.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Good for you Paul! I think we'll be seeing solar options across the board soon (from homes to cars - and even clothing). Great technology is on the horizon with thin film solar.

    • paul_gibsons profile image

      paul_gibsons 8 years ago from Gibsons, BC, Canada

      beginning to get addicted to your solar power hubs... maybe I will take the plunge myself one day in the not too distant future.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Frieda - I love writing about solar topics!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Great to hear about all these exciting things. Wonderfully packed hub, Steph.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi KeithTax, I'm with you! I think that solar holds a big advantage over wind with respect to residential systems in large part because of aesthetics. However, efficiency and cost are two hurdles for solar power. That should continue to change in a positive way - looking forward to more news in the coming months and years. My fingers are crossed too.

    • KeithTax profile image

      Keith Schroeder 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Integrated photovoltaics is an exciting technology I pray delivers on the promise. Solar is behind wind by a large margin. Wind can stand on its own while solar needs to bring costs down per Kw. The lower cost of BIPV allows a larger cover area of the home for increased electricity production. The biggest issue is the lower effeciency per area. Unit cost is the real advantage. If BIPV works I'll install it on my home and barn. My fingers are crossed.