• Fraunhofer ISE believes BIPV can move to mass production and holds great promise as an industry for the European manufacturers
  • Germany alone can achieve successful energy transformation with 150 GW to 300 GW of installed PV on buildings
  • Even though it is an expensive technology, BIPV offers several other benefits to the building occupants
  • Such an industry definitely needs to offer custom-made BIPV modules that are industrially produced in comparable magnitude, leading to the creation of a sustainable supply chain

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) though a promising concept is still at a nascent stage. Experts argue that solar fully integrated into the building façade or roof directly can offer several other advantages than just power generation, such as acting as a noise barrier, insulation and providing protection against weather, providing shade and daylight,. Even these panels can have different colours. Yet, most home owners still prefer to go for a mounting system to deploy solar modules.

Talking about Germany where the uptake of roof mounted solar is quite high, Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) says a successful energy transformation in Germany requires between 150 GW to 300 GW of installed PV for the building area, even though the total available roof and façade area correspond to an installed PV capacity of up to 2,000 GW.

BIPV will be well suited for big buildings and cities with a large building stock. Nonetheless, it is a rather expensive proposition at first sight compared to traditional solar, yet the researchers believe additional costs are reduced appreciably if a renovation or new envelope is necessary anyway, and the owners can look at about 10 years of payback time for these additional costs.

The small market that BIPV currently constitutes is asking for around 10 MW to 50 MW of annual capacity, hence it can’t really be called mass production. This is where European manufacturers have advantages on their turf, by providing custom-made BIPV modules that are industrially produced in comparable magnitude, Fraunhofer showed in a paper that was presented at the BIPV Forum of the Staffelstein Symposium in March.

Custom-made seems to be the keyword here since in the case of BIPV modules cannot be one-size-fits-all solution, encouraging the growth of a sustainable value chain, said Dr Tilmann Kuhn, Head of the Solar Building Envelopes Group at Fraunhofer ISE.

Planning, construction, operation and maintenance are among the stages where BIPV products must be integrated into all phases of the building process to allow planners and architects to use solar building components easily in their daily work, however, digital planning tools can help in this process, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), a software-based method for the database-optimized planning, operation and management of buildings and other structures.

In April 2018, Fraunhofer ISE and Schmid Group said 35% cost reduction is possible for BIPV modules with new production concepts (see 35% Cost Drop For BIPV Modules).