For over fifteen years I’ve been talking to homeowners who want solar shingles. This is a concept called Building Integrated Photovoltaics, or BIPV. The idea is for the outside of your building — the part that is exposed to the sun — to do double duty: roof shingles or coverings that generate electricity, windows that let some light in but also absorb light and generate electricity, or some kind of wall covering that generates electricity. The hope is that money will be saved by combining two product categories (for example, shingles and solar panels), while at the same time improving the aesthetics of the home.
BIPV is a great concept, but very challenging in reality. I’ve seen dozens of BIPV product announcements, done a number of BIPV installations myself, and then observed almost all of these products disappear from the market. In retrospect, there are three reasons that these BIPV products almost always fail to get market traction:
- They are more expensive than ordinary solar installations, even considering the avoidance of ordinary building materials,
- They are never as reliable as ordinary solar, and
- They have a difficult time meeting new safety requirements (arc-fault, rapid shutdown, fire clearances).
Nevertheless, intrepid companies continue to innovate BIPV products. I remain hopeful that someone, someday will find a way to solve these problems. For more about the promises and challenges of Building Integrated Photovoltaics, Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.
About the Energy Show
As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.
The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we’ll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices.
About Your Host
Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.
His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.
Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies. He’s been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.
Lead image credit: Patrick Breitenbach | Flickr