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BIPV systems: features and prospective applications

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BIPV systems: features and prospective applications

One of the most promising renewable energy technologies is photovoltaics. Photovoltaics (PV) is a truly elegant means of producing electricity on site, directly from the sun, without concern for energy supply or environmental harm. These solid-state devices simply make electricity out of sunlight, silently with no maintenance, no pollution, and no depletion of materials.

There is a growing consensus that distributed photovoltaic systems that provide electricity at the point of use will be the first to reach widespread commercialization. Chief among these distributed applications are PV power systems for individual buildings.

Interest in the building integration of photovoltaics, where the PV elements actually become an integral part of the building, often serving as the exterior weather skin, is growing worldwide. PV specialists and innovative designers in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. are now exploring creative ways of incorporating solar electricity into their work. A whole new vernacular of Solar Electric Architecture is beginning to emerge.

A Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) system consists of integrating photovoltaics modules into the building envelope, such as the roof or the facade. By simultaneously serving as building envelope material and power generator, BIPV systems can provide savings in materials and electricity costs, reduce use of fossil fuels and emission of ozone depleting gases, and add architectural interest to the building.



While the majority of BIPV systems are interfaced with the available utility grid, BIPV may also be used in stand-alone, off-grid systems. One of the benefits of grid-tied BIPV systems is that, with a cooperative utility policy, the storage system is essentially free. It is also 100% efficient and unlimited in capacity. Both the building owner and the utility benefit with grid-tied BIPV. The on-site production of solar electricity is typically greatest at or near the time of a building's and the utility's peak loads. The solar contribution reduces energy costs for the building owner while the exported solar electricity helps support the utility grid during the time of its greatest demand.

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