People have associated Photovoltaics (PV) with installing PV modules at an angle of 45 degrees in the field and getting energy from them. Now Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) is used in modern building design that provides economy, eco-friendly and attractive in one package.
Dr. Teodosio del Cano, R&D Manager of Onyx Solar, sat down for an interview with InterPV magazine after his lecture at PV World Forum 2012, held concurrently with EXPO Solar 2012 to talk about his perspectives on present BIPV innovations.
Reported by Stella Y. Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
How long have you been involved in solar industry? What is different today, than when you started in this field?
I have been in this business for the last 12 years. My scientific background is basically in Advanced Materials Science for Optoelectronics as key topic in my Ph.D. and PosDoc at ASIC (Osaka), working mainly in photovoltaic properties of thin films and nanostructures. Then, I was CTO of one of the key crystalline PV cell and module businesses for 3 years, and then, I moved to Onyx. The sector has changed a lot, in both, technology and economics. Improvements in efficiency and lifespan have been critical in the last years, and PV cost has been drastically reduced to utility values. In the case of BIPV, right now, we are living a deep transformation from a BAPV concept into a real development of new building materials with PV active properties. Here, Onyx Solar could be considered a key player for all the stakeholders involved from final clients to building promoters and material providers.
You mentioned passive and active solutions of the multifunctional PV glass during the lecture. Can you talk more about that and where it can be applied?
Yes, certainly. Onyx Solar multifunctional solutions are much more than PV panels for buildings. They combine active properties-such as photovoltaic energy generation with passive properties such as thermal and acoustic insulation, natural lighting and selective filtering of the harmful components of solar radiation. As a result of that, a building will be able to generate energy but also becomes a more habitable environment for its occupants.
What is your strength that your competitors can’t imitate?
We are a BIPV-specialized company. Due to our technological independence, Onyx Solar business model is almost unique. Other solar companies can be found to install their existing products in buildings, but what we offer is a completely customized solution for each project. Based on the requirements of each project and assisted by our multidisciplinary team, we complete a personalized BIPV consulting study which ensures the best choice to each situation.
In terms of comfort and safety, what do you do about your products?
In Onyx Solar, we only use the highest quality materials that provide the maximum quality standards in any area involved. Therefore, our solutions consist of a PV safety glass that has been manufactured under special conditions to guarantee occupant´s security and also provide insulation properties to the building to improve interior comfort.
Moreover, our solutions fulfill all the Building Codes necessary rules for double and triple isolated safety glass, to protect the safety and general welfare of occupancy.
Can you tell me about your innovations that are leading the field?
Every project is a challenge. They require different solutions in different configurations so we need to be a flexible company. And this flexibility level can be only reached by a firm commitment to R&D based on technological independence. That allows the company to develop innovative solutions such as PV curtain walls, brise-soleils, ventilated facades, canopies, PV parking lots, skylights or PV walkable floor, which makes us a key player in the sector of photovoltaic building integration
Some contractors and builders just focus on the cost of the BIPV module rather than its efficiency or environment factors. What do you think they should know?
Costs are an important decision maker in any sector, more even these days. But when you look for a BIPV solution, you might need to look further. The resolution will depend on client’s target for this project: Economical feasibility, energy production or best aesthetical solution. Each technology will involve different kind of BIPV solution that the client will have to assess.
Evaluating those needs is critical to reach the right decision. Based on them, our BIPV specialists present different kind of technologies and solutions, in order to provide the customer with necessary information to achieve it.
And strictly talking about costs, financial benefits of ‘Green Buildings’ have been definitely proven as well. Rents and potential sale price of sustainable buildings are usually higher than conventional ones, besides the saving costs derived from energy efficiency or a productivity increase of workers.
What solar market do you wish to focus on? Asia? Europe? Or North America?
As a global company, we think a great opportunity lies on every country. We have accomplished projects in Spain, Italy, France, China and the U.S.A. so we try not to be focused just on one territory. Europe remains a really interesting market, countries such as China or India could be the largest markets to come in the next years and the U.S.A. is still the most concerned country in terms of building efficiency and BIPV.
Besides that, South America is showing an outstanding interest for a sustainable development and we consider it a great market as well.
How do you think we can make the integration of BIPV can be more popular? Should the government be supporting through the public institution’s BIPV building construction or financial aid for installers?
First of all, people have to be more concerned about the need of finding a new sustainable model of growth. Not only governments or institutions. Energy consumption will hike up dramatically in the next 10 years and we all have to adopt new measures to face it. In my opinion, this is the right way to approach it.
One of the advantages of BIPV is that it doesn’t need to be supported by government measures to succeed. Primarily, we offer constructive solutions, so they are useful just by themselves. They produce energy, but also provide many more properties to the building (let the sunlight in, thermal and acoustic insulation, customized design…)
But, as I said before, public awareness of the need of an energy model change is required. As Sir Norman Foster once said, “Solar architecture is not about fashion, it is about survival.”
Stella Y. Lee is Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to email@example.com.
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