Blog & News/ Technology / Why Building-Integrated Photovoltaics?

Published
September 13th, 2023
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Solarstone
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Solar 101

Why Building-Integrated Photovoltaics?

The world is quickly evolving in the face of climate change, and with this shift, a pressing need for sustainable energy solutions has emerged. One of the innovative answers to this global issue is building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV. Not only do these panels serve the dual purpose of providing shelter and generating power, but they are also shaping the future of urban infrastructure. Let's dive into why BIPV is not just a feasible but also a preferred choice for modern-day construction.

Benefits of building-integrated solar panels

Building-integrated solar panels provide a unique solution to homeowners and businesses. They are not merely add-ons to existing structures; they are embedded within the structure itself. As they serve as both the outer layer of a building and an energy generator, they eliminate the need for separate solar installations, offering both functionality and an aesthetic appeal.

building-applied photovoltaics vs building-integrated photovoltaics

Building-applied photovoltaics (BAPV) vs building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)

Resource efficiency and environmental impact

The integration of solar panels into buildings reduces the need for additional materials and space. This means fewer resources are utilized, and less waste is generated. By reducing the amount of raw materials required for construction and installation, we minimize the environmental footprint and the strain on natural resources. Moreover, as solar energy is green and renewable, it significantly reduces the building's carbon footprint.

Space Efficiency

In urban environments where space is at a premium, building-integrated solar offers a unique advantage. By incorporating solar panels directly into building facades or rooftops, there's no need for additional land or space to host large-scale solar farms. This efficient use of space can be particularly beneficial in densely populated areas. By opting for vertical or rooftop solar installations in urban settings, we can leave more land undisturbed. This approach preserves natural habitats and supports biodiversity, unlike large-scale ground-mounted solar farms that can sometimes disrupt local ecosystems.

Flexibility in design

The aesthetics of a building are integral to its appeal, value, and its ability to blend or stand out in its environment. Building-integrated solar panels are evolving not just as functional components but as design elements that can enhance architectural appeal. 

Building-integrated PV systems, thanks to advancements in technology and manufacturing techniques, can be integrated into various architectural styles ranging from traditional to contemporary. This ensures that the integration of solar panels doesn’t compromise a building's original design vision but complements or even enhances it.

With modern technologies, such as Solarstone’s Solar Tiled Roof™, roof-integrated systems can be tailor-made to match various architectural styles. Whether you’re looking to integrate with existing roof tiles or aiming for a seamless appearance with Solar Full Roof™ modules, there's flexibility to match any design preference.

Beyond just the tiled look, BIPV offers a range of design options. This includes different colors, textures, and opacities. Some BIPV solutions even mimic materials like slate or terracotta, allowing architects and homeowners to maintain a particular aesthetic while still reaping the benefits of solar energy.

While roofs are a common site for building-integrated photovoltaics integration, the technology’s adaptability means it can also be used on facades, awnings, or even as part of a building's shading system. This broadens design possibilities and allows architects to think creatively about how and where they incorporate solar generation in their designs.

facade made of solar panels

Applications for building-integrated photovoltaics

The applications for building-integrated photovoltaics are as varied as the architectural imagination allows. As technology progresses and the drive for sustainability becomes more pressing, it's evident that integrated solar panels will find even more innovative uses. It's not just about energy generation; it's about redefining how we perceive our buildings – turning passive structures into active contributors to a greener future.

  1. Rooftop Installations. The most common application of building-integrated photovoltaics, rooftop installations seamlessly blend with the building’s profile. Here, the roof not only acts as a shield against the elements but also as a solar energy generator.

  2. Facades and External Walls. Transforming building exteriors into energy sources, BIPV facades merge aesthetics with functionality. Large-scale glass facades can be equipped with semi-transparent integrated solar panels, filtering sunlight and producing energy simultaneously.

  3. Awnings and Canopies. Outdoor structures like awnings and canopies are ideal locations for building-integrated photovoltaics integration, providing shade while capturing sunlight.

  4. Balconies and Terraces. Incorporating building-integrated photovoltaics in balconies or terraces serves a dual purpose of providing privacy screens and generating power. As urban living demands more apartments, balconies fitted with BIPV panels are a step towards self-sustaining residential complexes.

  5. Greenhouses and Agricultural Applications. BIPV isn't just limited to urban constructions. Its application in agriculture is a testament to its versatility. Agricultural storage spaces can benefit from building-integrated PV, providing power for internal operations and reducing operational costs.

  6. Noise Barriers on Highways. While primarily designed to reduce noise pollution along busy roads, these barriers can be equipped with integrated solar panels, turning long stretches into power generators.


Potentially quicker installation

One of the fundamental appeals of building-integrated solar panels lies in its potential for streamlined installation. With the dual functionality of BIPV, the process of setting up a sheltered structure and a power-generating system can happen concurrently. This simultaneous approach offers significant advantages in terms of time, manpower, and overall efficiency.

Recent studies have shown that conventional solar installations take about 6.9 worker-hours per kW, whereas residential roof-integrated PV installations were observed to take around 6.4 worker-hours per kW at reroofing sites and just 3.5 worker-hours per kW at new construction sites. 

worker-hours per kw of solar panels installation

By reducing the worker-hours required per kW, BIPV not only speeds up the installation process but also translates to potential cost savings. Less time on-site can mean reduced labor costs, quicker project turnover, and for commercial projects, a faster return to operational status.

The data is particularly telling when it comes to new construction sites, where BIPV installation takes just 3.5 worker-hours per kW. This suggests that when builders and architects plan for building-integrated photovoltaics from the onset of a project, the installation process becomes even more efficient. This forward-thinking approach ensures that the necessary infrastructure and logistics are in place from the start, leading to a smoother and faster installation.

Especially for retrofitting or reroofing projects, a quicker installation process means less disruption for the building's inhabitants or operations. This is particularly beneficial for businesses or institutions that need to maintain daily functions even during construction or renovation phases.

Economic advantages of building-integrated photovoltaics

Cost Savings: Investing in building-integrated PV can lead to significant savings in electricity costs. By harnessing the sun's power directly, dependency on the grid diminishes, offering a reduced electricity bill.

Potential for Additional Revenue: For buildings that generate excess electricity, there's potential for exporting it back to the grid in places where feed-in tariffs or net metering is available.

Increased Property Value: Buildings equipped with building-integrated solar panels are more attractive in the real estate market. As the global focus shifts towards sustainable living, energy-efficient homes and offices become a lucrative option for buyers, thereby potentially offering higher returns on investment for sellers.

Protection against energy price fluctuations: Building-integrated photovoltaics offers a degree of protection from the unpredictable nature of energy prices. By producing and consuming solar energy on-site, there's less reliance on external power sources whose prices may fluctuate due to economic or political reasons.

Comparison in cost

When assessing the financial implications of integrating BIPV systems, it's essential to look beyond the immediate expenses and weigh in on the broader spectrum of long-term savings and value additions.

While the initial investment for BIPV might be higher compared to traditional solar installations, the long-term savings and benefits can offset this. It's crucial to view this investment within the context of its dual functionality: you’re essentially paying for both a roofing material and a solar power generation system. When you factor in the increased property value, potential for energy resale, and savings on electricity, the return on investment becomes clearer. 

Modern buyers and investors are increasingly eco-conscious. Energy-efficient, sustainable buildings equipped with BIPV systems are deemed more attractive, leading to a potential increase in property value. This appreciation can significantly mitigate the initial cost of the system.

In regions where net metering is available, excess energy generated by building-integrated photovoltaics can be sold back to the grid. This resale potential, over time, can serve as a consistent revenue stream, further sweetening the financial prospects of BIPV.

Many governments and local authorities offer incentives, rebates, or tax breaks for sustainable and energy-efficient constructions. Building-integrated photovoltaics, given their eco-friendly nature, might qualify for such benefits, further reducing the effective cost of installation.

Conclusion

Building-integrated photovoltaics are more than just a sustainable energy solution. They represent a shift in how we perceive urban development and infrastructure. As the world leans more towards eco-friendly solutions, BIPV stands out not just for its green credentials but also for its economic and aesthetic appeal. For those looking at future-proofing their investments and embracing a sustainable lifestyle, building-integrated photovoltaics are undeniably a worthy consideration.

Discover Solarstone's solar solutions

Solarstone offers simple yet efficient roof-integrated solar solutions for your home. Every solution we offer adheres to our core principles. This results in a product that caters to your needs, reduces your costs and looks great.

solarstone solar full roof on a modern building
blue house with solar tiled roof combined with brown roof tiles
solarstone solar carport at rally estonia 2023
solar carport modern plus extended

Solar Tiled Roof™

Solar Tiled Roof™ combines solar and roofing functionality into a perfect energy production system without compromising the visual appearance of your home. Interlocks with a comprehensive selection of flat concrete and clay tiles.

Solar Full Roof™

Designed to cover all roof sides with best-in-class integrated solar panels and similar looking dummy modules to create a sleek-looking modern solar roof. The Solar Full Roof™ turns your entire roof into a solar powerhouse. It’s a straightforward approach to get the most out of solar energy.

Solar Carport

Power your home and charge your electric vehicle with a single first-class investment. Solar Carport produces electricity for self-consumption and enables you to sell any surplus energy back to the grid. The carport’s building-integrated solar panels are resource efficient, aesthetically pleasing and watertight. Decades of electricity generation and vehicle protection are yours to enjoy - all this from a carport that ultimately pays for itself.

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