Adding renewable energy generation to a home or commercial building is a great way to reduce both energy bills and environmental impact, but space constraints and aesthetic concerns can get in the way.
That may be set to change, however, with the rapid development of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) – replacing conventional building materials used in features such as façades, roofs, windows and skylights with components that generate electricity from solar power.
Photovoltaic (PV) glazing is playing a key part in this, and there has been rapid development in the technology recently. While energy-generating windows have been available for around five years, technical limitations have stopped them delivering on the promise of energy-generating windows, until recently.
Previously, PV glazing was only available in a brash orange colour with a relatively low level of transparency, giving the impression of looking through a sodium street lamp. Products were also affected by reliability issues, with windows frequently fogging up after only very short periods of use.
The latest generation of products, however, deliver a much more natural colour balance, higher levels of light transmittance and increased reliability, so they can be used more unobtrusively in a building without having a major aesthetic impact.
Of course, a further benefit is that, because the glazing is extracting much of the energy from the sunlight in order to generate electricity, it reduces the heating effect of the light entering the building, helping to reduce overheating and dependence on air conditioning, in much the same way as solar control glass.
The BIPV solution we have developed, Pilkington Sunplus™ BIPV, is an architectural glass that can be used in vertical and roof glazing, offering an ideal solution for inconspicuous integration of PV into a building.
In commercial projects, it can contribute to improved scores on energy performance certification schemes such as LEED and BREEAM and help in delivering Net-Zero Buildings, which consume roughly as much energy as is generated renewably.
Typically, an installation will pay for itself in reduced heating and cooling bills in 10 years or less.
It is clear that future gains in improving the energy performance of buildings will be made not just in making them more energy efficient, but by designing them to actively contribute to their own energy needs, and we’re proud that products like Pilkington Sunplus™ BIPV are at the forefront of making this a reality.