Bridging the gap BIPV – pv magazine International
Earlier this year, Toronto-based Mitrex helped establish a quote for the supply of limestone siding products. Instead of the conventional coating, the company’s CEO, Danial Hadizadeh, instead offered a BIPV product, “at a competitive price, which can make you look the same and have a faster installation,” says Hadizadeh. “This is the world of construction, not the world of photovoltaics. “
Mitrex Integrated Solar Technology launched its BIPV product portfolio in early 2020. The products had been in development for five to six years as Hadizadeh identified a gap he believed could be bridged – the one between the construction industry and the manufacturers of BIPV products.
“Our main difference is how to install these panels. The real advantage is the installation method – how fast we can install them and how close they are to others [construction] products, ”says Hadizadeh. “They [construction companies] don’t care how to run the wires, they want to look at the building and make sure it gets done in two or three months or two or three days, depending on the project.
Taking into account the stringent requirements of architects and builders, Mitrex has developed front coating technology and deployed a new backsheet concept on its coating product. Encapsulating crystalline silicon cells in a glass front sheet, the product uses honeycomb backsheet material – providing lightness, strength and also an ideal material for attachment to a building surface.
“By adding the honeycomb, we can better control the temperature on the solar cells and at the same time create a hanging system for a facade,” says Hadizadeh. In addition to its facade product, Mitrex also supplies more conventional modules for roofing, semi-transparent modules for windows and a BIPV railing solution for balconies and balustrades.
While it doesn’t reveal a lot of detail, Mitrex cladding technology allows its facade modules to be produced with a range of colors and textures – so they look like stone textures like limestone or granite, with a wood finish and a wide range of colors. Mitrex says it’s a multi-layered coating process, in which elements of color and texture are introduced into the front glass, rather than the surface, for durability.
“Our coating is actually in the glass layer,” says Hadizadeh. “Sometimes we are 2 microns in the glass, it all depends on the type of coating and the colors we create. While some efficiency is lost due to the light reflected from the coating, the CEO of Mitrex reports that by adjusting the material to allow the passage of light waves of a certain bandwidth, modules with certain patterns achieve almost 99% of the output power of a conventional solar panel.
Spirit of construction
Mitrex is part of a group of companies active in the development and manufacture of building materials, including Cladify and Stone Lamina, under the GCAT group. Cladify has nearly 20 years of experience in the construction industry.
Hadizadeh reports that Mitrex initially targeted the Canadian construction market after its launch, but has just opened offices in Los Angeles and New York. It targets 4 million square feet (1.2 million m²) of BIPV facilities through 2023.
The arrival of building materials companies in the BIPV is not entirely new. The Chinese group CNBM entered the segment with its acquisition of the pioneer CIGS Avancis in 2014. It maintains some German production capacity for its series of Skala modules, which comes in 11 colors, ranging from black and grays to blues. , greens, gold and bronze.
CNBM operates three production sites across China for its CIGS BIPV modules – a combined nominal capacity of 600 MW. However, it has recently turned to cadmium telluride (CdTe) and intends to establish CdTe manufacturing facilities for its new colored solar glass product, with a capacity of 1 GW “at several sites. ” in China.
CNBM’s colored solar glass product is a large format, at 1.92 m², and is available in power classes from 110 W to 180 W. Using 3.2 mm tempered glass, the module weight is about 31 kg.
Regarding aesthetics, CNBM CdTe glass features “controllable color and adjustable light transmission” through “triple lamination” of the front glass, using “high temperature color glaze and UV photosensitive ink. “- according to CNBM. Patterns can also be applied to the front glass. The company reports that the new product has already been supplied to construction projects in Shanghai, Sichuan and Hebei.
The traction CNBM has had in the construction industry with its CIGS modules and, now, CdTe is hard to pin down. But his expectations for the segment are clear. CNBM says that over the next five years, some 10 billion square meters of building area is expected to be added, to the existing 60 billion. Of this total, CNBM predicts that some 750 million m² will use the BIPV – for a production capacity of around 100 GW. It indicates that 3 billion m² of BIPV could be added to existing buildings, representing 400 GW of photovoltaic capacity.
“This product can be directly used as roofs and walls of buildings and has advantages in terms of structure, function, appearance and power generation over other products,” explains CNBM.
As construction companies add another quiver to their bow with BIPV, some PV producers are choosing to optimize their products for integration. Russian heterojunction producer (HJT) Hevel Solar is trying to promote the deployment of BIPV in its home country and among the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and to bring its product to international markets.
Vasiliy Shikin, Export Sales Manager for Hevel Solar, says long snowy winters in parts of Russia and CIS countries can be advantageous for BIPV. “In Russia, in some regions with snow loads, BIPV is actually more efficient than rooftop PV, because it is difficult to access the roof and remove snow,” says Shikin. “But on the vertical facade, BIPV modules can be even more efficient than roof modules. “
“When there is snow, there may be the reflection of snow [onto the vertical surfaces] and it can increase the yield and it can also be interesting. Shikin says Hevel expects demand for his BIPV product from Russian and international companies active in the region looking to reduce their carbon emissions – although he notes that the regulatory framework in the region for the BIPV is still under development. Shikin adds that Russia’s so-called “green taxonomy” could be revised to incorporate carbon footprint monitoring – to encourage companies to reduce their emissions.
Hevel has partnered with a Russian construction company to develop its BIPV product. It is a ventilated facade mounting structure that faithfully reproduces the system already used by construction companies for glass or other facade materials. The frameless and double-glazed versions of Hevel’s HJT can then be attached to the ventilated facade mounting system.
“We have expertise in making highly efficient HJT cells,” says Shikin. “We also have custom and non-standard modules – that’s why entering the BIPV segment seemed like a logical step to us. Because of their high efficiency, Shikin claims that even with a patterned or colored front glass, Hevel modules can still deliver high power output.
Hevel’s coating process involves applying ceramic to the front glass, reports Daria Zhilina, a leading specialist at Hevel’s R&D center in St. Petersburg. “It is ceramic ink, which is melted into glass at high temperature during glass manufacturing, making it resistant to water, scratches, UV rays, and other impacts.”
IHS Associate Director Cormac Gilligan said BIPV applications have remained “relatively niche” due to the complexity of the installation process and the “increased capital cost of the BIPV system”. However, it is positive about the collaborations between the construction segment and BIPV suppliers.
“Partnerships between solar technology manufacturers and roofing companies and major home builders will accelerate the rate of adoption of BIPV,” says Gilligan. He adds that public incentives such as tax credits or “additional payments for up-front costs” are likely needed for the segment to grow – and to fund ongoing innovation. He says the new lightweight “Air” module from Mexeon, a SunPower spinoff, will likely open up new applications.
In terms of the business model, there is room for innovation as well, and here Mitrex introduces a rental model that he says will inspire more building owners to adopt BIPV. Although it authorizes the outright purchase of its modules, it intends to partner with construction companies and owners through a 30-year lease.
“Not everyone wants to be the utility company, and that will limit the market and raise prices,” says Hadizadeh. “We want to move to a model where the majority of the products we offer are under power purchase contracts. We will become the energy company. This is our ultimate goal and it has been our goal from day one.
BIPV legal frameworks remain an obstacle to more widespread adoption of BIPV – and there is a glaring lack of uniformity between markets. In Europe alone, says German lawyer Sebastian Langer, there are a myriad of building and energy laws to contend with. Lange is the president of the BIPV organization, the Allianz Bauwerkintegrierte Photovoltaik eV
“The point is, if we’re talking about PV, when it comes to a legal issue, it’s all about energy law,” Lange explains. “If I’m talking about building integration, I’m also talking about all building regulations. This makes it very complex and you hardly find any specialist ready to deal with both aspects – energy and building.
Lange notes that while leasing can be a promising solution for building owners, there are obstacles in some countries, including Germany. “This is where it’s not that easy,” Lange says. “If you are using an ordinary PV system, I can just use the roof and it doesn’t matter who owns the PV plant. If it is within the building envelope, the property cannot be separated, the owner of the building is automatically the owner of the PV plant. It cannot be separated.