What are Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)?

October 16, 2013

Our thanks to Mathias Maehlum from Energy Informative for providing GBE readers with a series of informative articles on solar energy technologies like BIPV. His next two articles, “Zero-Down Solar Leasing for New Homes,” and “NREL Sets New World Record with Two-Junction Solar Cell,” will be published this week.

Some homeowners are turned off by how solar panels affect the appearances of their homes. Building-integrated photovoltaics – basically solar panels incorporated into the construction of new buildings – can eliminate the negative visual impact of traditional solar panels; improve appearance and boost resale value.

Believe it or not, these roof tiles are actually covered in thin-film photovoltaic material.

Believe it or not, these roof tiles are actually covered in thin-film photovoltaic material.

The installed capacity of building-integrated photovoltaics is expected to boom over the next couple of years. A report by Pike Research, projects that the capacity will grow from 400 MW in 2012 to 2.25 GW in 2017[1] – roughly a five-fold increase worldwide.

There are many different categories of BIPV today. Here are the most common ones:

  • Thin-film solar panels integrated with a flexible polymer roofing membrane.
  • Flexible thin-film solar panels integrated into roof shingles/tiles.
  • Thin-film or crystalline-based solar panels mounted on the façade of a building.
  • Semi-transparent solar panels that replace windows and skylights.

Read our in-depth article Which Solar Panel Type is Best? Mono-, Polycrystalline or Thin Film? to find out which of the various solar panel technologies is best in your situation.

Generally, BIPV systems are less efficient and more expensive compared to traditional solar panels. However, if you want to seamlessly integrate solar panels with your home, and have the extra money that is required, building-integrated photovoltaics can be a great solution.

Are you eligible for extra incentives? In some places, additional incentives are available for BIPV-systems in addition to the standard feed-in tariff/net metering, rebates and grants. Search DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency) to see which incentives apply where you live.

Although implementing building-integrated photovoltaics in the construction phase of a home makes more sense from a cost perspective, these systems can also be retrofitted into existing buildings.

Author: Mathias Maehlum, Energy Informative

References: [1] Business Wire.

Image credit: US Tile. The SOLÉ Solar Power Tile.