This article is the eighth entry in SolarPower Europe’s 10-part blog series on ‘What’s Hot in Solar’.

“Today, higher module efficiencies, longer warranties and enhanced product performances make BIPV installations an attractive option for the next generation of buildings,” writes Miguel Herrero Cangas, Policy Advisor at SolarPower Europe

Today, buildings are responsible for 30% of the final energy consumption worldwide. In this context, increasing the rate of energy efficiency renovations of existing buildings (0.5-1% of the building stock annually), and the generation and procurement of renewable energy in buildings in general, will be essential to meet the emissions reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

As CO2 emissions from buildings have risen again in the last years, it is imperative to find alternative solutions to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050. While the promise of building-integrated PV (BIPV) has been around for decades, it has so far failed to become a mass product, easily adopted by developers and architects.

Next-gen BIPV products
However, ‘third-generation’ BIPV solutions are coming fast, offering products that efficiently support the decarbonisation of all types of buildings and, at the same time, enabling the creation of new businesses which provide local jobs.

The next-gen BIPV products are very appealing and in line with the versatile nature of solar power technology. An increasing number of companies, including Akuo Energy and Tesla, for example, are producing a large variety of multi-functional BIPV products (tiles, windows, etc.) that offer architects and developers a wide range of possibilities to fully substitute roofs and facades while leaving space for architectural creativity. This is backed by increased activity at solar research institutes on that topic: CSEM from Switzerland has developed white solar modules for facades, ECN from the Netherlands has designed integrable large-scale modules with printed surfaces that could be also used for noise barriers or canopies, and Fraunhofer ISE just introduced colourful layers for solar modules that demonstrate high colour saturation, while maintaining an efficiency of around 93% of the original panel.

The next-gen BIPV products are based on basically any solar cell technology available. While many use dominating crystalline silicon, there are also BIPV products such as solar roof tiles using naturally black CIGS thin-film technology. Some startups also develop lightweight and flexible organic PV solutions, anticipating ‘connected and integrated buildings’ (with smart lighting, smart windows, canopies in parks, shading infrastructures, agriculture-related buildings) which will fuel the growth of the global BIPV market.

Growing investments in Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEBs), smart and energy performant homes and cities are driving a global market that could generate revenues of more than €6 billion by 2024. The next generation of BIPV technologies could greatly benefit from this thriving market.

On top of the strong decrease in regular solar module cost, years of research have resulted in lower costs for BIPV solutions and processes along the whole value chain. Today, higher module efficiencies, longer warranties and enhanced product performances (with warranted performances of around 25 years) make BIPV installations an attractive option for the next generation of buildings.

Some challenges to overcome
BIPV is not yet a mass-market product and still faces challenges to overcome. The current trend to reduce economic incentives (FiTs or tax incentive schemes) might make BIPV less attractive for consumers and investors. It also needs to educate the market about correlated ‘key product characteristics’, such as long product lifetime, low maintenance costs and versatility. A fully fledged BIPV downstream value chain must be established: from manufacture and installation, through O&M to refurbishment, decommissioning and recycling. This will be central to providing certainty to the construction sector that reliable sourcing can be dealt within a mass market.

SolarPower Europe’s BIPV Task Force, chaired by leading BIPV company Akuo Energy, sees the following to-dos as necessary to bring BIPV to the next level and unlock its enormous market potential. As it establishes the BIPV value chain, the solar sector will have to strongly focus on the comparability of BIPV products and build trust and awareness with potential BIPV users through standardisation and certification. This will allow BIPV to compete on equal footing with other construction materials. At the same time, building bridges with other key stakeholders such as architects, the construction sector or cities, and developing innovative public/private business partnerships will be crucial to raise awareness of the benefits of this fascinating technology.

However, as Europe is ambitious to become the first carbon-neutral continent, a critical focus on greening EU buildings is needed – and BIPV technologies could be back in the spotlight earlier than predicted. The European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson suggested using innovative European technologies, such as solar tiles that provide insulation and renewable energy in building renovations.

For further trends in solar, download the Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2019-2023

SolarPower Europe has launched the #Solar4Buildings campaign – we are calling for solar on all new and renovated buildings in the EU to help limit climate change. Help support the campaign by signing the petition calling for EU legislation to have solar on all new and renovated buildings in the European Union!

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