Building-integrated PV is a grassroots technology with remarkable potential. Once it is pushed by further education for architects and costs are lowered through standardization and well-trained installers, the road is paved for BIPV’s successful future.
Building-integrated PV (BIPV) is a technology where solar installations are made part of a building, as the name suggests. While this method is very promising, it is not yet as successful as it could be. pv magazine met Sebastian Lange, Chairman of expert network BIPV Alliance and talked about the traits of BIPV.
Costs are main reason for limited success
Firstly, Lange was asked to explain why only very few BIPV installations have been made in Germany and Europe so far. As he pointed out, the main reason are the costs, as these are higher for BIPV than for regular PV systems. However, the costs cannot solely be blamed, especially as they are based on an often better quality.
Another important factor is necessary training for architects, installers and users. Once there are more experts on the field, the popularity of building-integrated PV is likely to increase. Also, BIPV is largely underestimated or even unknown. Thus Lange believes that better communication is necessary in order to make BIPV known among experts and users.
Potential for cost reduction of building-integrated PV
Just like any technology, the price development depends on various factors. „Photovoltaics can be integrated in the roof as well as in the façade, in parapets and in every conceivable special element. At the same time, crystalline modules, thin-film modules or even organic photovoltaics can be used, depending on the properties desired for the respective project. In general, therefore, it can only be said that the falling prices of photovoltaics naturally also benefit the building-integrated PV. This also creates new room for maneuver to plan photovoltaics in the future, where it would hardly be possible to date.“, Lange explained to pv magazine.
Sinking costs might be achieved with proceeding standardization. At the time being, many BIPV projects are developed individually for each customer, but in the near future, standardized concepts may lead to fewer costs.
Many possibilities with varying prices
In terms of design and possibilities, there are almost no limits to the very versatile BIPV. As a result, differences in efficiency and longevity occur. The assembly costs vary, depending on the chosen systems and and possible special assembly requirements. According to Lange, Allianz BIPV are „continually working to develop appropriate guidelines to make the implementation of BIPV projects easier and safer“.
Few installers and unclear framework
Due to the currently small amount of BIPV projects, there is only a limited number of qualified installers. Many more will have to be trained to make sure BIPV is no longer a niche technology – something manufacturers are currently working on.
As for now, there is no uniform and clear framework for the certification and approval of BIPV products – another hurdle to be taken in the future.
Lange implied that once all of these remaining obstacles have been removed, the road should be cleared for a successful future for BIPV.
Title image: By Hanjin (Own work), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons