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Building-Integrated Photovoltaics Emerging, Thanks To NZEB Goals

Incorporating solar generation in commercial building materials may finally become a mainstream practice, with both solar windows and solar panels used to create net-zero buildings. Evolving regulations in leading jurisdictions like California and Germany are driving the building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) with adoption deadlines as early as next year.

Incorporating solar generation in commercial building materials may finally become a mainstream practice, with both solar windows and solar panels used to create net-zero buildings. Evolving regulations in leading jurisdictions like California and Germany are driving the building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) with adoption deadlines as early as next year.

The estimated $3 billion global BIPV market may only amount to around 1 gigawatt now, but analysts at n-tech Research recently suggested that the market could reach $5.7 billion by 2023 before it then doubles to $11.6 billion in 2027.

Colored solar BIPV modules will accelerate commercial adoption; Credit Fraunhofer ISE

A slightly different forecast suggests that by 2021 the global production of building integrated photovoltaics is projected to mushroom to over 10 GW, with the sales market expanding at an average growth rate of nearly 16%, according to a new report from Market Research Vision.

Thanks to advanced legislation in California, Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) regulations will kick in next year for new commercial building construction. “The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has set several NZEB goals, including targeting all new residential construction and all new commercial construction within the state to be net zero energy building by 2020 and 2030, respectively,” reports n-tech Research.

On top of the new California building requirement, 50% of existing buildings in the state also will be required to be retrofitted to meet NZEB goals by 2030.

Since the US solar Investment Tax Credit will not expire until the end of 2021, projects moving quickly may be bolstered by tax equity investors. State incentives pop up in different jurisdictions from year to year, but already well-developed state goals of 50% to 100% green energy consumption over the next two decades may be the primary driver in the US BIPV market.

Similarly, countries like Germany are driving the growth of BIPV with regulations that assure the industry will be well certified, documented, and regulated to a global standard. “As of 2021, an EU Directive goes into effect requiring that all new buildings to achieve an NZEB annual energy balance. This measure is designed to support the German government target to achieve a climate-neutral building stock by 2050,” note BIPV researchers at Fraunhofer ISE.

The BIPV market in Germany also is supported financially by feed-in-tariffs and interest free loans, helping the market to develop more quickly than any other country markets due to its early focus on BIPV, n-tech observes.

Globally, the BIPV market will be led by the United States, China, and Japan, by 2023, according to the n-tech analysts. Together, these three countries will account for 75% of the BIPV market revenues, with China and Japan each expected to generate well over $1 billion and the United States is expected to generate $2.0 billion in sales.

The first mass wave of BIPV adopters may be driven by architects. “In order to stimulate the mass market, BIPV products must be integrated into all phases of the building process. This includes the planning, construction, operation and maintenance. Planners and architects must be able to use solar building components easily in their daily work, in the best case with just a few clicks,” Fraunhofer surmised.

Architects will be aided in this effort through the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM), a software-based method for the database-optimized planning, operation and management of buildings and other structures, Fraunhofer says. The group is currently involved in the design of such software with other commercial building development players.

Costs will need to decline for BIPV to reach a mass market level, but a reasonable return on investment is already achievable, Fraunhofer notes. “Mass-produced standardized BIPV modules could make a larger contribution, and this market is emerging,” the analysts there said.

“Although building-integrated photovoltaics is more expensive than other types of building envelopes, the additional costs are reduced appreciably if a renovation or new envelope is necessary anyway. A payback time of about ten years for the additional costs is possible in the meanwhile,” the Fraunhofer analysts said.

Not all buildings will need to be retrofitted to NZEB standards for high renewables goals to be met. A 2017 study by the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) and Fraunhofer ISE, found that “the building area suitable for PV in Germany is more than five-fold the area required for PV in an energy system based completely on renewables.”

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Charles specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. Among key areas of focus are bifacial panels and solar tracking. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.


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