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Integrating solar energy into architecture

Research into photovoltaics (PV) has recently focused on a new area of research: distributed or decentralized grid connected systems. One application is to integrate PV modules, which convert solar energy into electricity, directly into architecture. This reduces the land required, decreases the need for module support and lowers construction costs. It also eliminates the needs for battery storage and reduces power transmission losses. A two-way flow of electricity between the grid and the PV system accounts for the natural intermittence of the solar resource. In line with the International Energy Agency Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, PV cladding has been developed for use in providing energy to buildings. PV cladding can be used on buildings to harness solar energy. Cladding that is suitable for use on facades was designed and tested. Two products have been developed and they have high potential for commercialization.

The first step was to identify the major design problems and requirements in the development of grid connected PV cladding systems. This was done by considering the existing and conventional research into PV cladding as well as architectural considerations, state of the art solar cells, safety standards, maintenance, market and environmental issues. Following this, a PV cladding system was designed which was suitable for facades of new and refurbished commercial buildings. A limited feasibility study of a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) PV cladding system was carried out, with the main consideration being the useful recovery of heat from the PV cladding. Finally, taking into account all the results from the other parts of the study, two prototype PV cladding systems of at least 1 kWp were constructed and tested.

Much effort went into collecting and summarizing large amounts of existing information about PV facades and the various issues that need to be considered when approaching a PV project. Problems for implementing an integrated PV cladding system were fully assessed and areas needing further development were identified. The rainscreen overcladding developed has integrated PV modules that are larger than standard and this reduces the amount of wiring required as well as reducing framing costs. The second prototype, the ventilated facade, consists of 4 panels, compliant with standard building requirements. It comprises glass/resin/glass PV modules with 15 x 10 units of BP Solar's high efficiency cells. The heat from behind the cladding is collected to heat the building or water and this increases efficiency.


Frances CRICK
Tel.: +44-118-9730073
Fax: +44-118-9730820
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