Already a segment of the expanding Photovoltaics (PV) market, BIPV is becoming a popular way to use solar energy to generate electricity. In 2007 the PV market raked in approximately €6.24 billion, with a growth rate of 46%. As a part of that growing market, in 2007 BIPV brought in €149 million with a market growth rate of 33%. With public awareness and concern shifting to applying greener methods for generating energy, BIPV holds great potential as a key player in the future.
Building Integrated Photovoltaics refers to the photovoltaic (PV) materials that structurally serve as building exteriors, such as roof, façade, or skylight. These materials are used for on-grid application rather than off-grid microgeneration. Through the use of the photovoltaic modules, solar energy is captured and then used to generate electricity. There is also a potential for generating heat from BIPV through the use of transparent modules, but this has not been sufficiently explored. A BIPV system can be installed during the actual building phase of construction, as well as retrofitted for a later date. Modern examples of the use of BIPV in aesthetically pleasing landmarks are the OpTIC project in Wales as well as the Stillwell Avenue Station in New York.
The major challenge with BIPV technology is affordability. With the help of EU subsidies and tax incentives, the prices are falling, but it is still an expensive system. There are other challenges beyond the costs of BIPV. Frost & Sullivan analyst, Akhil Sivanandan, of the Building Technologies Group states, "Market participants across Europe will now have to find ways to handle what many consider to be the two main challenges facing the BIPV market right now: the aesthetics of BIPV and the financing and ownership of the system."
In the past few years, different types of BIPV are being utilized for various purposes and appearances. Roof integrated systems integrate PV modules into each roof tile. Façade integrated system, can act as a rain screen, which offsets other building component costs. Semi-transparent or transparent installations can allow for some of the light to enter for day-lighting or viewing. Retrofit roof or façade are not built into the building during construction, which can make result of their late addition to the building less aesthetically appealing. Finally, PV can be used as a shading device, whether added during or after the building process. This method is highly efficient, depending on the type of PV modules using. Two major types of PV modules are used. Crystalline silicon uses wafers of silicon wired together and attached to a module substrate. Thin film technology, which utilises thin films of crystalline silicon grown on a foreign substrate like glass or steel, while less efficient, is easier to integrate.
BIPV has benefited from overwhelming political support. The EU has been searching for a clean, emission free form of electricity generation for a while, and fully endorses this new technology. The goal of reducing European dependence on coal and nuclear energy is in reach with BIPV methods. Although, BIPV is not yet on an level playing field with more widely accepted and used forms of conventional electricity generation, the growth rate promises continued successes.
Even though the BIPV market in Europe is still small, its projected and proven growth over the past years leads market analysts to believe this new technology holds promise for the future of green energy generation in Europe.
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