BIPV Poised for Explosive Growth

Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) currently make up a small but increasing part of the world PV market, and many analysts predict a growth explosion in the sector, resulting in a multibillion-dollar annual market segment. The global BIPV market was estimated at 1201 MW in 2010 and is expected to increase at a 56% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach a capacity of 11,392 MW in 2015, according to Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV): Technologies and Global Markets, a new report from analysis firm BCC Research.

BIPV roofing is the largest near- and mid-term market segment, the report says and the global market for BIPV capacity in the roofing sector was 404 MW in 2010 and is expected to reach 3197 MW in 2015, a CAGR of 51 percent. The BIPV sector had a manufacturing capacity of just 200 kW in that year, but BCC Research expects it to increase at a 670 percent CAGR, reaching a capacity of 5439 MW in 2015.

The current downturn in the global construction industry, the worst in a hundred years, has slowed development of BIPV, but market analysts say this phenomenon is temporary and had already begun to turn around in 2010. China and India especially are experiencing a building boom, and the economies of the US and Europe are so large that their construction and renovation industries have continued to function at high levels even in the throes of recession.

In the current PV market, where manufacturers’ ability to produce mass capacities of solar materials to bring down costs is crucial to their survival, the price of capacity is rapidly approaching grid parity. But to succeed in the BIPV sector, costs must also be balanced by concerns with compatibility with national economies, building structures, aesthetics, and public support systems, the report’s authors believe.

“Third-generation” PV products will have capabilities allowing them to be used in new and previously unimaginable ways. BCC Research also predicts that thin-film products will have several BIPV market segments to themselves and, as premium products, will also appropriate some market share from c-Si and poly-Si. Light weight, flexibility, adequate operational efficiency, and a number of colour options are proving to be strong new capabilities that will find markets when, predicts the report, “the product is right and there is enough of it.”

RenewableEnergyWorld has learned of several recent BIPV projects that would seem to indicate that the market is there now, the R&D is proceeding in new directions, and products are emerging and being used in new construction. For example, Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd, a manufacturer of PV cells and modules, has announced that it has supplied 230 of its MSK Photovol Glass panels to Socovoltaic Systems, a Socotherm and TSNergy Inc joint venture company that designs, manufactures and installs integrated PV systems. The 10 kW BIPV solution will form an integral component of a 750 kW solar system for a 25,000 m² building project in Pozzallo, Italy.

In Germany, Sunways, a specialist in coloured crystalline silicon facade modules for BIPV, recently adopted DuPont Microcircuit Materials’ (MCM) Solamet PV17x photovoltaic metallisation paste, which the company says can boost efficiency and increase yields from its modules.

In the Paul Horn Arena in Tübingen, Sunways’ eye-catching emerald green modules cover the whole 520 m² southwest facade of the building — the world’s largest PV facade using coloured solar cells. More than 20,000 cells deliver approximately 44 kW of output and generate around 30 MWh annually, Sunways says.

Massachusetts-based Konarka Technologies, Inc, developer of Power Plastic, a lightweight, flexible organic solar panel, is working with the colour/construction unit of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe, a supplier of steel construction elements in Germany, to develop steel roof and other construction elements for BIPV. The joint solution will be based on the so-called Power Plastic which, Konarka says, can replace conventional materials in roofs, skylights and facades. The new material will be available in various colours and sizes. ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe plans to use them in facade components.

In California, Focus Materials, Inc has begun to offer its Focus Wall custom-fabricated glass-and-aluminium curtain walls, with built-in semi-transparent thin-film solar technology from Abound Solar, along with vBoost constant-voltage converter modules from eIQ Energy. Focus Materials integrates the modules and wiring into each panel’s glass support structure, out of sight, along with snap-together electrical connectors that connect to the larger solar system.

Also in the US, Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles (slogan: “It isn’t on the roof, it is the roof”), manufactured in Michigan and introduced to select U.S. markets in October 2011, are the first BIPV shingles that blend seamlessly with residential asphalt rooftops, says the company, which also claims that after extensive stress testing the shingles provide the same protection from the elements as typical asphalt shingles.

Perhaps that predicted growth explosion is not far off at all.

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