BIPV’s Global Outlook: “Limitless” Potential

Europe and Asia outpace the U.S. in embracing the solar modules, but technical breakthroughs could speed up adoption.

Demand Rises Worldwide; Research Could Help U.S. Catch Up

By Brad Berton

Recent projections strongly suggest that building-integrated photovoltaic installations will grow steadily worldwide over the coming decade. Citing the both growing demand and falling cost of generating energy on-site, a recent report from BCC Research characterizes BIPV’s global market potential as “essentially limitless.” BCC is projecting that worldwide revenue of BIPV suppliers from $1.4 billion in 2014 to $1.9 billion in through 2019 ($1.9 billion).

Lux estimates that BIPV installations will rise 20 percent globally each year over the coming decade. Installations should total around 500 worldwide by the end of this decade and 900 by the middle of the next. Façade and window applications will drive most of the growth.

Of note, the pace of installations in the United States is expected to trail that of Asia and Europe. And Ranade pointed toward the reluctance of architects and their developer clients to take advantage of the efficiencies of scale offered by mass-produced BIPV modules. It may be no coincidence that Europe and Asia are the locations of several significant efforts to remove that hurdle.

About a year ago multiple private and public BIPV stakeholders launched a three-year initiative dubbed SmartFlex, aimed at facilitating cost-efficient production of custom BIPV façade modules through automated design and production. Prototype testing is taking place at the headquarters of Glassbel, a glassmaker, in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Hanergy Holding Group, the world’s dominant manufacturer of the fast-growing “thin-film” PV modules, is experimenting with various BIPV installations (curtain walls included) at its headquarters complex. The expectation is that the installations will ultimately meet the facility’s entire electric load.

BIPV advocates hope that successes with these ventures will inspire broader adoption of the technology in the U.S. Hanergy’s experiments bring to mind some recent non-façade applications, ranging from walkways at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., shading devices like the brise soleil at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa., and parking lot canopies along Bay Area Rapid Transit system routes in northern California.

For more about trends in BIPV technology, be sure to read “Will BIPV Bust Out?” in the May issue of CPE.