Building Integrated Photovoltaics
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
Book on BIPV
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 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
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.