Solar energy is a clean, renewable energy source that can be used to meet our world's energy needs. One of the most promising technologies in this area is BIPV (building integrated photovoltaics). In this article, we will explore BIPV, its benefits, how it works, and its future as an integrated solar energy source.

What is BIPV?

BIPV is a technology that involves integrating solar photovoltaic modules into building structures, such as facades, roofing elements, windows, railings. Unlike conventional solar panels that are often installed on roofs, BIPV solar modules are designed to be an integral part of the building. This means that BIPV solar panels can be used to provide solar energy while having minimal impact on the aesthetics of the building. Sometimes they can even become an additional aesthetic element to enhance certain parts of the building. BIPV elements are designed to be waterproof and weather resistant, and are often made from transparent materials that allow light to pass through.

How BIPV works

BIPV solar modules work in the same way as conventional solar panels. When the sun's rays hit the solar panels' photovoltaic cells, they produce electricity. This electricity can then be used to power the building's electrical appliances or fed back into the electrical grid.

The benefits of BIPV

BIPVs offer many advantages over traditional photovoltaic panels. First, their integration into the building structure offers a more pleasing aesthetic. The panels can be designed to match existing architecture, making them an ideal option for historic or heritage buildings. In addition, the use of transparent materials allows BIPV modules to let in natural light, which can reduce lighting costs.

BIPV modules can also help reduce a building's energy consumption by generating solar energy. This can reduce electricity costs and make buildings more energy self-sufficient. BIPVs are also considered a more sustainable alternative to traditional photovoltaic panels, as their integration into the building structure reduces the need for additional materials.

The future of BIPV

The future of BIPV is promising because it is in line with the current trend of energy transition to clean and renewable energy sources. In addition, the demand for more sustainable and energy-efficient buildings is constantly increasing.

With technological advances in more efficient and less expensive solar cells, the cost of producing solar energy continues to fall, making BIPV increasingly competitive with conventional energy sources.

In addition, many countries have policies and incentives in place to encourage the use of solar energy, which further stimulates the adoption of BIPV.

In summary, the future of BIPV is promising due to the growing demand for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings, advances in solar cell technology, and government policies that encourage the use of solar energy

BIPV ASCA solutions

Reinventing solar architecture

Faced with today's energy challenges, reducing the carbon footprint of buildings is becoming a necessity. What if one of the solutions was found in the building envelope itself?

Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems offer tremendous potential for architects, planners and designers. Photovoltaic modules are integrated into the building envelope as active elements, a concept that combines environmentally friendly energy production with architectural functions such as weather protection, thermal insulation, light or noise protection. Thanks to their multifunctionality, BIPV elements are more environmentally and economically efficient than conventional building elements. ASCA's organic photovoltaic (OPV) solutions can further increase the sustainability of BIPV: ASCA's solutions do not use rare or toxic materials and are based on 100% recoverable organic materials. In addition, ASCA's roll-to-roll coating process minimizes the raw materials and energy required for manufacturing. As a result, ASCA's films have the shortest energy payback time in the photovoltaic market.

Customized design

To produce innovative solutions, ASCA prints organic materials on flexible PET films with an annual production capacity of 1 million square meters. A laser machine structures the films after applying a full-width coating to produce customized modules: transparency, shape, pattern, color, according to customer requirements. ASCA has already produced, for example, rhombuses and triangles for a media facade, hexagons for sun trees and green stripes for glass balustrades. The dimensions can vary from a small project of 1, 2 or 3 square meters to 2,500 square meters. Because of the printing process, scalability is infinite and ASCA is not limited to any quantity or size. In addition to design and production, ASCA takes care of integrating the architectural and technical design of the printed solar cells and offers its customers comprehensive support.

Energy on any surface

Extremely light-sensitive, the modules generate energy from light coming from all directions and even in low-light conditions, making it possible to use solar energy on facades, railings, skylights, and shading systems, regardless of their shape or material. The modules can also be applied to carports, balcony floors, conservatories, roof terraces, noise protection elements, bus shelters, guardrails and media facades. "Our solutions can be aesthetically integrated into all new architectural structures and designs, becoming a part of the structure itself. With our products, architecture is no longer dictated by technology, and solar modules can become part of the building envelope," says Hermann Issa, ASCA's senior vice president of business development and project management

Successful integration

ASCA films for the BIPV industry can be integrated into many materials, including glass or polycarbonate. "Our polycarbonate solutions are bent in a cold-forming process, can easily be installed on curved surfaces, and allow for post-processing such as milling and hole drilling," Issa explains. "They are the right choice when breaking strength and low weight are very important, for example, for overhead applications such as bus shelters," he adds. Glass modules, on the other hand, are more stable, statically strong and fire resistant. "However, the glass must be cut to size before lamination and is laminated with the cell," Issa says.

Trees and Umbrellas

In the German town of Lochgau, for example, ASCA designed and implemented a solar tree that generates electricity for an electric bicycle charging station. The modules of this six-meter-high installation are made of green organic solar films laminated with polycarbonate (see page 36). A system of 20 solar umbrellas was installed as part of the Landesgartenschau Thüringen, Germany. The modules were integrated into umbrella-shaped polycarbonate panels and mounted on the outer supporting structure of the "Climate Pavilion". The semi-transparent solar umbrellas provide shade and electricity. The translucent, half-sphere-shaped pavilion was first used as an exhibition space for the national horticultural trade fair and is now used for other events in Thuringia. Because the solar umbrellas are planned to be used at different locations, the pavilion was designed to be easily dismantled and rebuilt, with lightweight OPV solutions that can be easily assembled.

Administrative and commercial buildings

For a project in Gronau (Germany), ASCA, for example, integrated organic foils into the façade glazing of the new local utility administration building (see page 18). ASCA's first project in commercial housing was implemented in 2021. Glass balustrades with integrated solar films were put into operation in condominiums in Stuttgart Möhringen, Germany. While the balustrades are transparent from the inside, they are translucent from the outside, ensuring privacy for employees. "With the glass balustrades, ASCA closes a gap in facade construction. For the first time, safety glass for high-rise buildings can also generate energy," says a delighted Martin Sulzer, head of technical sales at BGT Bischoff Glastechnik GmbH. He adds: "ASCA modules are ideally suited for high-rise buildings because they are attractive and, thanks to their technical properties, there is no total loss of energy, even with partial shading. The flat glass processor BGT Bischoff Glastechnik GmbH - based in Bretten near Karlsruhe, Germany - is ASCA's main partner for glass and polycarbonate integration. This leading European player offers architects, planners and the global construction industry transparent and energy-generating modules with ASCA solutions. In addition to manufacturing the OPV components, ASCA also supports its customers in the dimensioning and design of the energy as well as in the system integration, from cable routing and connection technology to the inverter.