Going solar

Checklist for Designing a Commercial Building Project. How To Achieve Maximum Area For A Solar Power Plant (BIPV)?

Maximum solar yield with BIPV integration

Development of solar power projects at commercial levels is becoming more and more interesting as new and innovative technologies continue to show up in the market. While years ago the only possible option to add solar power to a commercial building was to install conventional solar panels on the flat roof top, today there are many alternatives to consider that allow us to maximize the area that can be used to harvest solar energy.

Moreover, solar power trends have switched their objective from merely providing a clean source of energy that saves on electricity bills to also providing a single integrated solution that merges with the building structure smoothly and that enhances the architectural view of the whole project. In summary, solar-powered technology no longer only needs to be functional, but also elegant and aesthetic.

These trends have consolidated into what is known as building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) with multiple applications in large commercial scale projects.  This technology focuses on transforming architectural-construction structures such as windows, roofs, or carports into solar powered generating facilities that serve both architectural and electricity production purposes.  This article focuses on the examination of this technology and all the possible applications that you can use to maximize the PV area production of your project.

Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) Market Development and Size

According to findings from the Global Building Integrated Photovoltaics Market: Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2021-2030, increasing nearly 15% when compared to 2020. Research and projections indicate that this trend is to be maintained for global BIPV projects in the years to come with an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20% up until 2028, reaching nearly USD 59.5 billion by 2028.  This means that by extrapolating the data, the BIPV market can be expected to be valued in USD 19.9 billion by 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on this sector due to the supply chain disruption that made difficult to supply raw materials and led to labor shortage, which in the end affected manufacturers and installers all over the world. All of this affected market demand and caused a reduction in sales for BIPV projects, especially in 2020. However, the impact of the pandemic for the BIPV sector is expected to be minimized and the market is estimated to get recovered by the end 2022.

The impact of the pandemic for the BIPV sector is expected to be minimized and the market is estimated to get recovered by the end 2022.

From solar cells technology perspectives, crystalline silicon has occupied the largest market share in the BIPV development, close to 71% in 2020. Besides, the roof segment of BIPV also presented itself as the most important market in 2020, more than walls, glass or facades. This trend is expected to be maintained up until 2030. Furthermore, the commercial sector has also been positioned as the most important one, with a market share close to 53% in terms of revenues.

Moreover, Europe continues to stand out as the biggest market for BIPV development in terms of installed capacity thanks to clients willingness to apply this technology in buildings with the goal to achieve zero carbon emission constructions. Particularly since the European Union intended all new buildings were zero energy buildings.

As a reference for growth of this market in for Europe, figure 1 illustrates the historical growth of BIPV since 2007. You will find that there was a major drop in development since 2011, however, you must keep in mind that this corresponds to a regulatory change made in Italy where the definition of BIPV changed and became stricter. The same thing happened in France. Now, since both countries are the major markets for BIPV in Europe, this had a tremendous impact on cumulative size for building-integrated photovoltaics.

Building Integrated Photovoltaics Applications

As mentioned previously, BIPV is rapidly expanding and is expected to continue growing over the next decade. Therefore, if you want to get into these new trends and you are looking for new ways in which you can have a zero-energy building by expanding the amount of useful space for solar power in your commercial project, here you will find several useful ideas.

Checklist to maximize building area for BIPV:

  1. Solar facades
  2. Solar roof
  3. Solar balustrades / balconies
  4. Solar louvres
  5. Canopies

Facades

A valuable alternative is to use building facades as a solar power generation source. This works by integrating lightweight solar panels into new or existing facades of your building. In general, besides generating clean energy, the solar facades will provide you with insulation, noise reduction, and other thermal properties.

Metsolar company can provide customizable project designing for your particular application by adjusting solar panels in size and shape, color of glass, transparency, efficiency, thickness and weight, as well as adapt to other particular requirements.

However, building façades are conventionally made out of glazing, walls, cladding, balconies, or parapets, which is why depending on the application, several types of solar facades can be evaluated for project development. Let’s find out which façade options are available.

Figure 2. Double-Skin Solar Glass Façade
Figure 2. Double-Skin Solar Glass Façade
Source: Metsolar

Ventilated solar façade

A ventilated façade is a façade construction that has an air gap between the façade cladding and the insulation. The gap is opened at the top and bottom of the whole façade. This arrangement allows for a natural ventilation of the façade. In summary, the ventilated façade protects the building against weather, but at the same time creates a healthy indoor climate since it reduces the direct solar impact inside the building and the walls are not heated as in other similar construction. This is possible thanks to the constant air flow that provides cooling for the construction.

Now, a photovoltaic ventilated façade (also called ventilated solar façade) has a similar concept, but the difference is that the external cladding integrates photovoltaic modules that enable the production of solar energy. This type of BIPV construction is one of the most valuable since besides meeting architectural trends, the photovoltaic modules will be constantly cooled down thanks to the gap between the insulation and façade cladding. This is a major aspect since thermal losses are one of the main loss factors in photovoltaic applications. Moreover, thanks to this approach, the building will also save on air conditioning costs and can use the generated solar energy for other electrical components.

Metsolar company can provide a variety of solar glass colors that can be used including: White, light gray, black, gold, bronze, blue, terracotta and others.

Figure 3. Ventilated BIPV façade renovation and customization project for school in Canada
Figure 3. Ventilated BIPV façade renovation and customization project for school in Canada
Source: Metsolar

Curtain Wall

In this application model, solar panels are integrated as the cladding system for curtain walls and single layer facades. These facades are external and not ventilated, totally or partially glazed and supported by a structure where the external walls are non-structural. PV curtain walls provide air and water infiltration resistance, separating the indoors from the outdoor environment. Multiple requirements are to be met in PV curtain walls, not only energy production, but also load bearing, acoustics, thermal insulation, waterproofing, light transmission, among others.

This type of BIPV applications have many advantages since they provide a smart way to balance daylight and shading factors on a building. It also provides a valuable architectural overview of the installation as it is customizable with different colors and visual effects. This also controls the internal thermal properties of the building by minimizing solar gain during the summer. Moreover, it also maximizes the façade wall for solar power harvesting, which is one of the most widely available areas of a building.

Metsolar manufactures solar panels and can provide full customization to your PV curtain walls by changing the size of the solar modules in a range that goes from 150mm to 1700mm (width) and 150mm to 3300mm (length). Also by changing the shape of the module or by making different cell arrangement variations. Solar cells type can also be customized with efficiency values that go from 20 up to 22% and color can be customizable by Metsolar.

Figure 4. Photovoltaic Curtain Wall
Figure 4. Photovoltaic Curtain Wall
Source: PV Curtain wall - Metsolar

Spandrel

Whenever a façade is designed, one of the key elements to consider is to find out how to hide construction materials or other structures between floors. One of the most innovative solutions is the spandrel glass.

The photovoltaic spandrel is a high power density solution that increases the energy performance of any building while combining pleasing aesthetics for architectural development. This concept can also be applied in other areas where laminated safety glass is not necessary. Color customization can also be achieved.

Figure 5. Photovoltaic spandrel
Figure 5. Photovoltaic spandrel
Source: Solliance

Roof

The most important area in any construction for solar is the roof. Both in residential and commercial applications, the roof continues to be the area that most PV projects are developed on. BIPV technology has developed several alternatives to take the most out of the roof space available using products that integrate to the structure itself. Let’s find out what are those options.

Roof Tiles

One of the most promising products available in the BIPV industry today is the solar roof tiles, especially in the residential sector. Solar roof tiles combine two requirements of any house into a single product: roofing material and energy production. Basically, they are roof tiles that have solar cells integrated into their structure in order to generate electricity just as any solar panel would. The difference is that they resemble the appearance and shape of typical roof tiles for house construction, making it hard to see the difference between traditional roof tiles and solar roof tiles.

Solar roof tiles are perfect for new houses or cases where the building owner wants to do both a roof repair and add solar power.  It has an enormous potential since it provides homeowners with an alternative for high-end houses that want to generate clean energy through solar PV, but do not want to affect the aesthetics of their home or commercial structure by installing traditional solar panels.

The applications are multiple for the residential and commercial sector for the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

Metsolar offers flexible manufacturing of this technology that allows customization to install concrete solar roof tiles, solar shingles or even solar slates depending on the type of roof. Metsolar also offers a BiSolar roof tile, perfect solution for standard concrete roof tiles that makes wiring and installation easy and quick.

Figure 6. a) BiSolar Roof Tiles. b) Roof tile integration
Figure 6. a) BiSolar Roof Tiles. b) Roof tile integration
Source: Metsolar

Skylight

The solar photovoltaic skylight is another popular choice, especially in the commercial sector. It uses the concept of the skylight and integrates laminated safety glass PV modules, double or triple glazed insulated glass units that activate energy production from the photovoltaic effect.

A photovoltaic skylight provides thermal insulation and also provides natural light to the inner side of the building. Metsolar can customize the transparency ratio of these PV skylights in order to adjust to the level of natural illumination that you want for the indoors of your commercial structure.

Figure 7. Photovoltaic Skylight
Figure 7. Photovoltaic Skylight
Source: Metsolar

Building Applied Photovoltaics (BAPV)

Building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) focuses on replacing the construction element with materials that can incorporate photovoltaic technology in order to provide a dual function (generating electricity and providing a construction element for the building structure).

On the other hand, building applied photovoltaics (BAPV) is a method that is based on fitting modules to existing surfaces of a roof by doing superimposition once the construction is finished. This is basically what we know as traditional solar panel installations.

Metsolar can also provide and customize traditional solar panels for roof or ground mount installations. Customization involves every aspect of the solar module including: type of solar cells (monocrystalline PERC, HTJ, or Bi-facial), backsheet color options (transparent, white or black), panel size and thickness, and even busbar variations (standard module layout, all black, or full black options).

BIPV vs. BAPV advantages and considerations

Also, it is important to know that BIPV has several advantages when compared to BAPV. Let’s see some of them:

  • Maximizes the area that can be used for solar power production.
  • Provide an aesthetically pleasing finish
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Adds more property value
  • Innovative and cutting-edge technology
  • Saves labor costs and building material
  • No obstructions are added on the roof
  • Transforms a building material into an asset that can have a return on investment(ROI)
  • Adds new functions to solar panels such as thermal regulation, shading, acoustic and weather protection.

However, as good as BIPV is, it still presents some disadvantages against BAPV such as

  • Higher capital costs
  • BIPV efficiency on photovoltaic technology can be lower than traditional solar modules
  • Higher complexity leads to more difficult modelling for energy yield estimations
  • Hard to implement from an economical perspective in cases where there is no required building renovation or new building construction
  • Corrective and/or preventive maintenance will probably be much harder than with traditional solar modules.

Balustrades/Balconies

Balustrades and balconies can also integrate solar photovoltaic technology. Solar balconies are generally combined with solar facades as an add-on by using solar glass for clean energy generation. These designs are perfect for apartment buildings that have a lot of balcony railings while at the same time are perfect for many commercial constructions. Especially if the building has south-facing balconies. Metsolar can manufacture customized solar glasses for the railings and balconies on a variety of colors and can also integrate solar cells into the balcony glass for maximum efficiency.

Figure 8. Solar PV balconies
Figure 8. Solar PV balconies
Source: Fractory

Louvres (horizontal/vertical)

Louvres as architectural components are perfect for providing indoors natural ventilation by simply allowing air to pass through it while keeping away water and dirt. However, they can also be used for photovoltaic generation, whether that is horizontal or vertical orientation.

One important advantage over other BIPV applications such as solar facades is that in a horizontal louvre the solar cells can be tilted up to a certain angle (instead of a fixed 90-degree) which enhances solar power production. Vertical louvres can also be used and as with horizontal louvres, they can also provide solar shading to the building while generating electricity. Solar cells can be integrated into the louvre or solar glass can be used as well with a variety of colors to match aesthetic requirements as can be seen below.

Figure 9. a) Horizontal Solar PV louvre. b) Vertical Solar PV Louvre
Figure 9. a) Horizontal Solar PV louvre. b) Vertical Solar PV Louvre
Source: a) Colt Source: b) Stylepark

Canopy

Finally, another popular architectural component that can be used to maximize solar power area is the solar PV canopy. Solar PV canopies are an excellent choice for BIPV for multiple reasons. For instance, they provide shading for whichever purpose desired, whether that are gardens, bus and train stations, and their most common application, as carports.

Moreover, they can be optimized for maximum energy yields with more optimum azimuth and tilt angles, unlike other BIPV applications, which can be restricted to the shape structure of the building. Besides, there is generally a large amount of space available, which is perfect to place as many solar panels as possible. Their application can be used in residential, commercial, industrial and even urbanistic cases such as the solar PV canopy for highways.

Figure 10. a) Residential Solar canopy. b) Solar canopy for highways.
Figure 10. a) Residential Solar canopy. b) Solar canopy for highways.
Source: a) Suncommon Source: b) Cleantechnica

Area Calculations and Yield for Solar PV Applications

Energy yield estimations in BIPV projects is generally more complex than on traditional PV system development. The reason is that building integration is not easily accessible in most software used today for energy yield estimations. Moreover, characteristics of solar PV cells technology other than crystalline silicone and behavior of solar glass cells is many times not considered in most software available.  Besides, customizable solar array systems with irregular shapes or patterns will not be available in software, which means more complex methods are needed when estimating energy yields in customizable cases.

However, there are some tools that allow performing 3D modelling of a building and adjusting parameters to obtain energy yields on facades, louvres and other BIPV concepts, providing the best solutions for area calculations and energy yield estimations.

Probably one of the most valuable is BIMSolar, which is a software that allows estimating energy yields on BAPV and BIPV applications including facades and window integrations as well. Some samples of this valuable tool can be seen in the figure 11 below. Other tools such as PVsyst and Insight-Revit integration can also provide a valuable approach to modelling BIPV projects.

Some factors to consider can apply in general on all BIPV to optimize energy yields as well as maximize production areas. Here we can see some of them:

  • Design lifespan should last longer than traditional PV system installations
  • Consider building statics, movements, dilatation, air-tightness, and thermal efficiency
  • Evaluate shading analysis caused by nearby objects
  • Consider safety requirements against shocks, electricity, fire hazards and vandalism
  • Match solar PV layout with architectural design requirements
  • Consider multiple BIPV options among all the applications mentioned in the article. Multiple combinations can lead to more valuable results
  • Aim to maximize areas and layouts with optimum azimuth and tilt angles.
Figure 11. BIMSolar Examples
Figure 11. BIMSolar Examples
Source: BIM Solar Source: IEA

Conclusions

We have reviewed multiple BIPV applications and learned how a designer or investor can maximize the PV area for solar power development. We have also learned many advantages of BIPV technology applied on residential and commercial sectors that make BIPV a worthy investment on the long term that can provide a single material solution to provide both the construction and energy sector.

Moreover, we also discussed some of the valuable tools for BIPV study development such as BIMSolar, Insight-Revit and PVsyst, necessary to predict area calculations and energy yield estimations. Finally, we learned that the BIPV sector is a market that expects further development in the years to come with an average CAGR of 20% per year. This positions BIPV technology as a solid market player in the photovoltaic sector where Metsolar can determine the best arrangement for you, enhance your solar power production and help you engage into the new trends of the solar PV industry.

What to read next

Turning your product into solar lighting. Key factors for success

Solar market growth was 32% last year, which is a clear sign for industries that solar implementation into a product might be a good thing. Not to mention that...

Will perovskite conquer the solar market?

Relatively new yet very promising perovskite solar cell technology has it's pros and cons. Learn more about current technological flaws and future perspective of perovskite technology.

The importance of solar cell cutting in the era of Internet of Things

Solar cell cutting is small yet very important part in solar business. This process, when used properly, ensures flexibility and applicability of solar energy to various niches and applications.

Upgrading product to solar. Things to consider

Growing demand for energy forces industries to start integrating solar power into everyday objects. Turning your existing product into a solar powered one is possible even with a limited...

2018 solar forecast. Demand for solar applications is here! Are you ready for market?

2018 solar forecast covers expected market numbers, tendencies and technologies to follow this year. Past several years the solar business has been blooming. Get ready for even lower solar...

© 2022 Metsolar.eu. All rights reserved