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What are Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)?

What are Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)?
Aug 08, 2022

Building-integrated photovoltaics are dual purpose construction materials that use the photovoltaic effect to produce clean electricity and double as the exterior climate screen of a structure. From windows and skylights fortified with PV glazing, to rooftops, building facades or railings, photovoltaic components are fully-integrated into the building. Structurally, BIPV materials replace fundamental architectural elements.


Learn why BIPV is changing the solar industry


BIPV replaces building elements


From windows and skylights reinforced with PV glazing to roofs, building facades or railings, photovoltaic components are fully integrated into the building. Structurally, BIPV solar installations replace basic architectural elements. With solar roofs at the forefront of a bold evolution in the solar industry – from solar panels to solar roofs – BIPV is at the leading edge of solar technology.


BIPV solartile


BIPV develops rapidly


Since its inception in Europe in the early 1990s, BIPV has hovered on the cusp of market success. After the first wave of solar companies to attempt the commercialization of BIPV products largely failed due to a lack of cost competitiveness with traditional solar modules, prospects today are promising. The market for building-integrated photovoltaic systems (BIPV) is growing as the technology matures and costs fall.


BIPV solar facade


Architects rely on BIPV


Architects are gravitating towards BIPV for its versatility, tapping into the energy potential of an all-productive surface. For the first time, double-duty materials are lowering costs as compared to traditional solar panels, which must be attached to an existing, architecturally sound structure. The incorporation of multifunctional materials into green design also allows for onsite production of electricity, with the compelling potential to reduce a building’s dependence on the grid.


BIPV solar rooftop


Strict climate policies aimed at accelerating our collective shift towards carbon neutrality will also be a boon to building integrated PV. Last year, California decreed that most new homes must be fitted with solar energy systems. A handful of cities—Watertown, Massachusetts among them—now mandate that qualifying buildings be retrofitted with solar and that new constructions be “solar ready.” Climate lobbyists intend to have similar legislation introduced in a dozen states by 2022. These recent compulsory solar policies are already driving demand for more beautiful, sustainable construction products.


By boasting the same functionality and a more customized aesthetic, building-integrated PV offers a solution for those who may not like the look of traditional solar panels. Beyond its integration into new buildings, a more subtle appearance means BIPV has been employed in renewable energy renovations within protected cultural heritage sites. Also unlike traditional panels, colored layers or films can be built into BIPV technology, allowing for personalized. 


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