BIPV - Building Integrated Photovoltaic

Building Integrated Photovoltaic in short BIPV are materials which integrate photovoltaic solar panels, thin film solar cells in parts of the building envelope like roofs, facades etc.

Various creative ways have been used by architects & innovative designers in order to incorporate solar energy in their designs. This has become a stepping stone for the birth of solar energy based architecture.

Image By Milo Baumgartner

History of Building Integrated Photovoltaic

  • Specific solar applications for buildings were first seen in the 1970’s period. The preliminary systems comprised of solar modules fitted in aluminum frames. They were mostly used in areas’ with no access to Electricity Grid.

  • The 1980’s marked a period in which specific photovoltaic add-on’s especially for roofs were made available. Such new add-on’s were installed on grid connected facilities thereby enabling them to avail the benefits of net metering introduced in 1983 by the Minnesota Net Metering Law.

  • During the 1990’s BIPV based construction products which were specially designed and modified to suit the twofold application of providing an envelope to the building & also producing power at the same time. Since that time their use has been constantly growing leading to the birth of solar energy based architecture.

BIPV System – Must Know Details!

A Building Integrated Photovoltaic system serves the dual function of being a building envelope & a source of power generation, my friend you already know about this!

Introducing such a system in a building reduces the cost of the building by replacing the conventional building materials. This in turn reduces the overall cost of the system. Speed of construction increases too. It can be said that such systems have lower system costs as compared to a dedicated PV system which requires special mounting systems and special areas for installation & commissioning.

A Complete BIPV system includes the following

  • The Specially designed PV Modules (Crystalline or Thin film, transparent, translucent or opaque)

  • A Charge Controller is required in case of off-grid systems, which controls the charging & discharging of the battery bank.

  • Power storage system i.e. battery banks are required for storing the power generated in standalone systems or utility grid connection in case of grid tie systems.

  • Along-with all the above, power conversion equipment like solar inverter is required which converts the DC output from the solar panels into usable AC supply.

  • Backup power supplies like Gas Based Generators or Diesel Generators which provide power in case of power outages, these are used mostly in off grid systems.

  • Last but not the least the mounting structures, the wiring and safety related hardware.

Forms of Building Integrated PV Material

Facades – Facades are installed on existing buildings thereby giving them a fabulous new look.

Glazing – Transparent or Translucent materials can be used in place of existing architectural elements like window glasses or skylights.

Flat Roofs – They consist of a thin film membrane which has integrated thin film solar cells. Currently the highest percentage of BIPV installations is of Flat Roofs.

Solar Shingles - Can be used which serve the purpose of a normal shingle but have thin film solar cells integrated in them.

Flat plates of Transparent Glass serve as a skylight & even produce useful electricity.

Applications of BIPV

Using Pv for skylight systems will make it more economical & would make it a great design addition to your building.

The use of PV in roofing of any building will replace the traditional asphalt shingles and the seams and battens required for the same.

Solar Cells can be impregnated with the facade of the building there by complementing often replacing traditional glass. Much often these installations are vertical in nature thereby reducing the availability of incident solar energy. As such installations are of large size, the loss of power generated is compensated by the large surface area of the installation.

Include BIPV in shading devices by using completely opaque modules, this helps in providing shade to the inhabitants plus it also generates electricity.

Saw tooth roofs, awnings too can be complemented by using building integrated photovoltaic in building facades. They provide and added advantage of increasing the access to direct sunlight which results in more electricity generation. This also has another architectural advantage, it provides passive shading.

Improved Aesthetics of the building along-with a wonderful scope for power generation is one of the best known possibilities extended by BIPV. This also provides you with a golden lining of reduced cost & improved sustainability to your building. Building Integrated Photovoltaic are surely worth considering giving you more bang for your hard earned buck.

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