Equatorial sunshine: The Malaysia BIPV programme

With its year round sunshine and rapidly developing economy, Malaysia is looking to increase its use of solar energy, particularly in urban areas where land is scarce and expensive. To this end it recently launched the Malaysia Building Integrated Photovoltaic project. Ahmad Hadri Haris, Vincent Tan, Azah Ahmad, Wei-Nee Chen and Daniel Ruoss give a review of the programme along with the history, and the future, of grid-connected BIPV systems in Malaysia.

Photovoltaic technology was first introduced into Malaysia in the early 1980s, primarily to provide basic electricity to remote areas. Subsequently, PV technology was used to generate electricity for offshore oil and gas platforms. In 1998, on the initiative of the national power utility, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Malaysia started to experiment with grid-connected PV system. This was motivated by the success of the German Rooftop and Japanese Sunshine programmes. Between 1998 and 2002, six pilot grid-connected PV systems were installed with power capacity ranging from 2.8 kWp to 3.8 kWp. The first system was installed in July 1998 on the roof of a university and provided Malaysia’s first practical experience of grid-connected PV. This first system was rather simple and basic but also was very expensive. Thankfully, it is still working, albeit with some inverter problems.

First wave of systems

In August 2000, a family living on the coast in Port Dickson became the first Malaysian family to own a grid-connected PV system when a 3.15 kWp system was retrofitted onto their roof. Subsequently, two further systems were installed at public residences in Shah Alam (3.24 kWp in November 2000) and Subang Jaya (2.8 kWp in November 2001). These early installations were part of the pilot project and were retrofitted onto the existing roof tiles. These residential installations provided valuable practical experiences to the homeowners as well as to the nation. In addition, a bungalow was built by TNB Research in October 1999, using 3.6 kWp of PV modules as part of the roof. Subsequently, in 2002, another bungalow was built by a firm of architects and the Standard Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) in 2002 to further demonstrate PV integration in roof design.

The ‘Smart&Cool’ home in Semenyih is highly efficient, with roof mounted PV and basement insulation

By the end of 2005, there were almost 470 kWp of grid-connected PV systems installed in Peninsular Malaysia, most notably the 362 kWp system at Technology Park Malaysia (TPM). The PV installation at TPM demonstrated Malaysian capability to handle and manage large PV installations. Other systems could be found at several local universities and other private buildings including at a school in Damansara.

The experience from the pilot grid-connected projects indicated that such PV applications in Malaysia are reliable and can produce 1.3 times more electricity when compared with similar installations in Germany. More significantly, the energy yields are rather stable from month to month as Malaysia enjoys tropical weather throughout the year. Based on the roof spaces of residential and commercial buildings available in 2005, grid-connected PV systems have the technical potential to generate 7.8 TWh electricity (equivalent to 21% of Malaysia’s combined residential and commercial electricity demand in 2005). This electricity can be produced without requiring any land (expensive in urban areas), and without polluting the environment. The PV application would be consumer driven, as the target market are people who live in the city and can afford, as well as appreciate, the systems.

The part-finished PTM building in Malaysia

Nonetheless, the main barrier to widespread PV application is the relatively high capital investment required. This is not helped by the miniscule local PV market and the fact that the PV modules have to be imported. On the other hand, the market will not develop while the technology cost is still expensive. Further to this, the PV industry in Malaysia has additional challenges that it needs to address:

  • lack of awareness and understanding of PV technology
  • ignorance of BIPV added values
  • adverse public perception on PV technology (due to poor image of stand-alone PV systems)
  • highly subsidized tariff for conventional electricity.
Background to the MBIPV project

Motivated by the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme’s (PVPS) observations that technology cost can be reduced significantly whenever there is a double growth of PV market, Malaysia decided to focus on BIPV technology application. To this end, the national ‘MBIPV Project’ was launched on 25 July 2005 by the Minister of Energy. This initiative is designed to increase the uptake of this technology and ultimately, realise BIPV potentials in Malaysia. Despite being called the BIPV project however, Malaysia’s approach is to utilize standard PV modules as part of the building envelopes, instead of customized BIPV modules.

The MBIPV Project was then included in the Malaysia 5-year plan (9th Malaysia Plan announced by the Prime Minister on 31 March 2006), and received co-financings from the Global Environment Facility (via UNDP) as well as the private sector. In this context, the ultimate purpose of the MBIPV Project is to reduce the long-term cost of PV technology by developing a sustainable market, in line with GEF’s Operational Programme, OP-7 which is ‘reducing the long-term costs of low GHG emitting energy technologies (Strategic Priority: Global Market Aggregation and National Innovation for Emerging Technologies)’. Furthermore, BIPV application is anticipated to contribute towards energy supply security, offsetting a percentage of the conventional peak energy requirement .

The focus of the MBIPV Project is to develop a market that will lead towards long-term BIPV cost reduction. Initially, at the end of the 5-year period, the BIPV unit system cost is expected to reduce by 20% from the beginning of the project (about 30 RM/Wp, €6.4/Wp). Critically, the MBIPV Project activities will also lead towards the development of follow-up programmes for the 10th and subsequent Malaysia Plans. As a start, the programme will provide developmental activities in formulation of sustainable follow-up BIPV programmes. In this context, the MBIPV Project will set up foundations by creating enabling environments for sustainable PV market and widespread BIPV technology utilization.

In response to the growth of the industry, the Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association was founded

So far the MBIPV Project benefited from the opportunity to learn from others and understand the specific PV situation in Malaysia. Through series of Logical Framework Analysis (LFA) workshops funded by the GEF under the project development facility, Malaysians together with many international PV industry players tried to understand the local challenges and factors critical in order to grow a local PV market in a sustainable manner. As a result, the country was able to ensure all mechanisms and budgets are in place before starting the MBIPV Project. In this respect, the Malaysia Energy Centre (PTM) was appointed by the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications to implement the national MBIPV Project.

The various key MBIPV Project activities are implemented through four major components:

  • Improving the image of BIPV by addressing local capacity building and training, awareness among public and policy makers, industry competency and quality, regional and international forums and co-operation.
  • Developing local market through showcases, demonstrations and the Suria 1000 programme.
  • Creating enabling environments via financing mechanisms, RE pricing policy and development of RE tariff as well as the grant fund, formulation of national BIPV programme for 10th Malaysia Plan.
  • Fostering local BIPV industry by strengthening local players, creating new business opportunities.
Installations and targets

The next phase of the MBIPV programme (component 2) will see a minimum of 1500 kWp of BIPV installed. Within this target, 100 kWp will be BIPV showcases to provide prime BIPV examples and success stories. Another 200 kWp minimum is expected from the BIPV demonstration category, and another 1000 kWp minimum from the national Suria 1000 programme (see below). Most, if not all, of these BIPV installations will be grid-connected. To date, 147 kWp of BIPV showcase projects are being constructed comprising of one office building, one university building, and 10 residential bungalows. At the same time, 18 kWp of demonstration BIPV systems have been installed while another 20 kWp are in the pipeline. On 27 November 2006, the Minister of Energy introduced the National Suria 1000 Programme which provides attractive capital discounts for individual and companies to own BIPV systems.

To help remove barriers, the MBIPV Project ensures grid access to all BIPV systems installed under the project. Within this context, the utility TNB has agreed to purchase the solar electricity on a net-metering basis. Nevertheless, it is the aim of the project to work with government to introduce a more attractive ‘RE tariff’ (via MBIPV Project Component 3), as well as special tax incentives for BIPV owners. In addition, the MBIPV Project provides technical support to ensure the BIPV systems are designed and installed with good quality. To further ensure quality installations, the Project has set up a competency certification programme for BIPV installers leading towards an approved service provider scheme. All these activities will be done hand-in-hand with concentrated development of local PV industry.

The announcement of the Third Industrial Master Plan (IMP3) by the Malaysian Prime Minister on 19 August 2006 further signified the government’s commitment to promote PV technology. The MBIPV Project is currently cooperating with Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) to identify specific areas within the BIPV value chain where Malaysia can provide business opportunities to international PV players. Malaysia practices an open door policy on technological developments and welcomes international PV players to invest directly in the country. The government supports such initiatives (or investments) and provides access to land, financing, abundant skilled human resource and excellent infrastructure. Local companies are also looking for opportunities to collaborate with international PV companies to enhance their business portfolios and opportunities.

Model of the new PTM building, showing three separate PV arrays

To ensure that the local PV industry will grow and align with MBIPV Project targets, PTM showed full support towards the establishment of the Malaysian PV Industry Association (MPIA) which was officially registered on 5 May 2006. In addition, various capacity-building and awareness-development activities were undertaken since the MBIPV Project started. As a result, more Malaysians are now familiar with BIPV and are able to appreciate its value to substitute conventional building materials. This is a significant impact and justifies the substantial budget allocation towards such activities.

It is imperative to understand that the focus of the MBIPV Project is to nurture an environment for a growing and sustainable BIPV market with all supportive mechanisms in their right places. Therefore, the MBIPV Project is not targeting large BIPV capacity installations (hardware), but instead will focus on the human capital issues. It is anticipated that the sustainable BIPV market development and the subsequent price reduction will be achieved over a long-term period (at least 10 years), i.e. beyond the completion of the MBIPV Project.

Post-2010, the aim is to achieve an annual 30% BIPV market growth that leads to further cost reduction. This will hopefully generate a minimum of 20 MWp BIPV installed capacity by the year 2020 (though Malaysia can achieve a lot more in the context of a developed nation). The installed capacity can translate into national benefits towards local industry development and employments.

The future sustainability of BIPV technology will depend mainly on the industry and market mobilization that is supported by strong institutional frameworks provided by the government (e.g., via renewable energy tariffs and regulation, national Suria programme, tax incentives, etc.). In this regard, the cost to the government in sustaining the efforts under the 10th Malaysia Plan period will be acceptable. It is anticipated that the macro-economic benefits of a developed local BIPV industry will outweigh the government contributions.

On the global front, Malaysia intends to become part of the ever growing worldwide BIPV markets. Regionally, Malaysia hopes to support other ASEAN countries in developing this new market. Malaysia has a great opportunity to chart the growth of a local BIPV industry without the possibility of a ‘start and stop’ situation encountered by many countries. Hence, Malaysians and the international communities eagerly anticipate Malaysia to create a strong mass urban BIPV market, and an expectation for MBIPV Project to succeed.

SURIA 1000 – making PV affordable

On 27 November 2006, the Minister of Energy, Water and Communications Malaysia, YB Dato’ Sri Dr Lim Keng Yaik introduced the National SURIA 1000 Programme, Malaysia’s pioneering financial incentive scheme for solar energy.

The SURIA 1000 Programme provides attractive financial discounts for home owners wanting to install photovoltaic (PV) in their homes. It is a requirement that the photovoltaic system be fitted as part of the building. This is what building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) means.

MBIPV National Project Leader Ir Ahmad Hadri Haris said: ‘The goal of Suria 1000 is to allow anyone in Malaysia to have their own BIPV system in their house, to generate their own electricity and get it grid connected’.

The Suria 1000 programme aims to install a minimum of 1 MW of PV for residential and commercial applications

SURIA 1000 aims to establish a minimum of 1000 kWp of grid-connected BIPV systems by 2010. Malaysia is starting with a modest capacity target to ensure that the local PV industry can provide quality services, and will grow at the right pace. For this first call, a total of 40 kWp is available to the bidders for BIPV capacity ranging from 3 kWp to 5 kWp (10 kWp in subsequent calls) for every application. Despite the limited capacity, it is hoped that the public will be excited by the novelty of generating electricity from the sun at such affordable prices, after the discounts.

SURIA 1000 operates on bidding process in which the bidders for first call can bid to receive discounts as high as 75% of the BIPV system price. This discount will be covered by the government through the Energy Commission. From December 2006 until end of 2010, there will be nine calls for bids, which will be opened to the public every 6 months, with the maximum discounts dropping with each call. This bidding concept is being used to test the willingness of Malaysians to pay towards the BIPV systems. Additionally, any surplus budget generated due to higher bids received can be ploughed back into the programme, leading to more installed capacity.

Formation of Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association

In view of the rapid development of the PV business, the Malaysian PV Industry Association (MPIA) was officially registered in May 2006. MPIA is open for all companies, who can join either as full member or as associate member. The President of MPIA is Mr Shamshudin Khalid, Marketing Manager for Sharp-Roxy Sales & Service Company Sdn Bhd.

Malaysia’s first grid-connected BIPV training centre

On the 7 November 2006, the Malaysia Building Integrated Photovoltaic (MBIPV) Project via Pusat Tenaga Malaysia (PTM) signed a memorandum of agreement with Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) to officially appoint the British Malaysian Institute (BMI) as the first grid-connected BIPV training centre in Malaysia.

The appointment of UniKL-BMI is a significant milestone for the MBIPV Project. The project places much emphasis on building soft infrastructure which provides a basic but solid foundation towards sustainable local BIPV demands and industry in the country. For this reason, one of the focuses of the Project is on capacity building. In order to manage proper installation of grid-connected BIPV systems, there is a need to train a pool of highly qualified BIPV service providers who are knowledgeable in designing and skillful in installing suitable grid-connected BIPV systems for their clients.

According to Ir Hadri, ‘The BIPV course is structured to comply with the requirements of Institute for Sustainable Power (ISP). ISP is a non-profit organization responsible to accredit training courses on renewable energies worldwide. In this particular grid-connected BIPV training, the course will constitute both theory and practical sessions, ending with a competency-based examination’.

The training course was developed by Mr Geoff Stapleton of Global Sustainable Energy Solutions (GSES), from New South Wales, Australia. In May 2005, Mr Stapleton was appointed as the President to the Board of Institute for Sustainable Power.

Pusat Tenaga Malaysia Zero Energy Office (ZEO) Building

Dubbed the ‘ZEO building’, PTM is showcasing sustainable and green building design in Malaysia as well as in the South East Asia region.

The design of building incorporates energy efficiency from passive techniques, orientation and vegetation, to active features i.e. highly efficient lighting systems, floor slab cooling, double-glazed windows, a thermal wall at its east and west facing facades, etc. Thus, the point of differentiation in this ZEO building (when compared with the other energy efficient buildings in the country) lies in its self-sustainability, the ability to be self sufficient with power generated from the building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems.

The first of its kind in Malaysia, PTM ZEO sets a new standard of energy efficiency by generating sufficient electricity from its BIPV system for the entire office use! To achieve this, a ceiling energy index target of less than 50 kWh/m2/year has been set for this building. The total floor area of the ZEO building is around 4200 m2 with a capacity to accommodate up to 111 staff.

Four different PV systems using four different technologies will be installed in this building. The first and biggest comprises 47.28 kWp of polycrystalline modules on the main roof. The second uses amorphous silicon units with a capacity of 6.08 kWp. These will be incorporated as the second main roof. The atrium of the building will use glass-glass semi transparent PV modules with a capacity of 10.81 kWp, while the car park roof will have integrated monocrystalline PV modules with a capacity of 27 kWp. All PV systems will be connected to high quality and highly efficient grid-connected inverters complete with PV monitoring system

With a total PV capacity of 91.17 kWp , the expected yearly electricity generated from the BIPV systems is about 108 MWh. This is based on PV energy yield in Kuala Lumpur of 1200 kWh/kWp/yr. With this estimated amount of electricity produced by the BIPV systems, the building consultants are confident that the electricity generated is sufficient for the electricity load of the entire building.

Currently, the building is about 39% completed and whole project is expected to be ready in April 2007. The building is located in the city of Bandar Baru Bangi which is next to the North-South Highway (the main road in West Malaysia). As such, the BIPV system is highly visible by those travelling along the highway.

Ir Ahmad Hadri Haris is National Project Leader, MBIPV Project
e-mail: hadri@ptm.org.my

Daniel Ruoss is an International Consultant, MBIPV Project
e-mail: daniel@ptm.org.my

Vincent Tan and Wei-Nee Chen are Technical Advisors, MBIPV Project
e-mail: vt@ptm.org.my
e-mail: weinee@ptm.org.my

Azah Ahmad is a Senior Officer with PTM
e-mail: azah@ptm.org.my

The ‘Smart&Cool’ home

Many visitors cannot hide their smile when they hear what they are standing on when they enter this house in Semenyih, Malaysia. But once inside the house, these smiles turn to astonishment and amazement. Based on a fundamental theory of the heat sink, and thanks to recycled car tyres beneath the house and the air gap between them, the concrete basement is on average 5°C cooler than bungalows built using conventional methods.

Not only does the ‘Smart&Cool’ house have a cooler living environment, which results in reduced electricity load, the house also makes use of energy efficient appliances and a PV system, making it a potential zero energy home (depending on the owner’s energy needs). The house is not yet occupied, as it serves as an excellent showcase of an environmentally friendly bungalow, receiving visitors from all areas of the building profession e.g. architects, engineers, developers and government officials from all over the ASEAN region.

The developer and inventor of the Smart&Cool home, Mr Lincoln Lee, is understandably very proud of his concept.

Nevertheless, the house is truly an outstanding example of PV aesthetically integrated as part of a building with energy efficiency incorporated into the building design. Lincoln together with his wife, Su May, designed the whole concept for the BIPV system, including the mounting system, matching inverter and data monitoring. The mounting system is custom made and the tray structure supports the PV modules which are supplied by Sharp.

The other system components, such as cables, DC connectors, fuses and others, are of the highest quality and guarantee a safe and long operational life span.

The inverter (Solarmax 6000C) is a Swiss product from Sputnik and matches perfectly the 5.25 kWp PV system. The energy production is monitored on a daily basis by Su May. On average the 5.25 kWp system produces 16 kWh per day, resulting in more than 1100 kWh/kWp per year. Considering the fact that the PV system is integrated, this is an excellent energy yield for Malaysia – average 1100 to 1200 kWh/kWp/yr.

Motivated by their outstanding achievement in creating a house based on energy efficiency and photovoltaics, the dynamic duo established a new company, Laurenz Leistung Sdn Bhd, to give their clients an opportunity to live in an energy smart home.

One can only hope that many more of such ‘Smart&Cool’ homes together with BIPV will be in demand on the Asian real estate. And talking about return of investment; including the PV, the ROI is just under 17 years. And keep in mind; 45% of the electricity tariff is subsidized in Malaysia. Smart and cool!
By Daniel Ruoss

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