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Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics, systems of high potential

28/08/2020 Focus on

To infinity and beyond !

Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics – or BIPV – are commonly acknowledged as photovoltaic materials that are used to replace conventional building materials in parts of the building envelope such as the roof, skylights, or facades. Thus, these systems encompass both energy-related aspects (linked to the production of electricity) and building-related aspects (linked to the construction material function). Today, we can identify four categories of buildings which BIPV products can be installed on : residential buildings, tertiary buildings and lightweight industrial, public facilities and commercial structures. Each of these has its own specificities, in terms of technical, architectural and economical characteristics. This is a starting point to some numerous possibilities.

In addition, BIPV products are based on three main categories of technologies:

  • Crystalline silicon solar panels mainly used for ground-based and rooftop power plants for example ;
  • Thin-film based technologies such as : Amorphous crystalline silicon, CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) or Cadmium Telluride – which could be partially transparent, light, red, blue yellow, and could be integrated on roofs or in glass that can be mounted on curtain wall and skylights for instance ;
  • Organic photovoltaics (OPV), such as the ASCA® film, which encompasses thin films characteristics altogether with low carbon footprint and a promise of lower production cost thanks to roll-to-roll process.

Thin films and organic’s modules can be laminated to building envelope elements or mounted directly onto the building envelope substrate.

No technology truly dominates the BIPV market. Even more for BIPV or for mainstream PV applications, the choice of one technology over the other, e.g. organic, thin-film or crystalline silicon, is made according to the type of application, as well as the performance and aesthetical requirements.

By simultaneously serving as building envelope material and power generator, BIPV systems can provide savings in materials and electricity costs, reduce use of fossil fuels and emission of ozone depleting gases, and add architectural interest to the building. Europe has had a long history of BIPV research and projects. Today, France and Italy are respectively second and third markets in terms of cumulative installed BIPV capacity, thanks to their past BIPV specific policies. Studies show that existing building façades with relevant solar exposure in EU represent over 4 000 million of m². This shows there is a real potential for a European development of OPV technology to fulfill this market in constant growth.

OPV ASCA®: an infinity of possibilities

ARMOR manufactures ASCA® film, an ultra-thin organic photovoltaic film with unique properties and minimal environmental impact. Its flexibility, semi-transparency and lightness make it the #1 solution to BIPV products. Indeed the aesthetical aspect is key to draw architects interest and ASCA® technology allows for free-form modules. ARMOR takes a bespoke approach for each project. We aim at creating a unique tailored solution. Besides, this approach is compatible with a mass production capacity. With 1 millions m² capacity, ARMOR plans to develop in the next few years a Giga Factory that will benefit from an increased efficiency and the reduction of organic polymers cost and contribute in a large amount to the deployment of BIPV.

Glass laminated OPV

As an example of OPV laminated in glass, we can have a look at a project led by ARMOR in Marburg, Germany. An existing building was equipped with an external elevator shaft. Glass facades with integrated ASCA OPV modules were used to power the elevator ventilation. What was interesting from a bespoke point of view is that each glass panel has its own individual layout. More specifically a family consisting of four different OPV modules in total was designed for this project.

Solar BAPV installation

Another example of integrated OPV is the German pavilion at the Universal exposition in Milano where the organic modules have been laminated into polycarbonate sheets. The modules shapes have been specifically designed for this project. The overall installation is light weight and has been calculated to withstand wind forces.

External thermal insulation integration

This is an example of OPV modules which are integrated to an external thermal insulation project that could be deployed in the frame of building thermal renovation works. It is possible to play on the shapes, sizes, patterns and colors for an aesthetical rendering.

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