By Brent Sauser
While traditional silicon-based solar panel technology continues to improve in efficiency and cost reduction, thin-film solar innovation is stretching the boundaries of application limited only by our imagination. Thin-film solar is less expensive than traditional solar panels, easier to manufacture, and is capable of being integrated into the overall building design, instead of being attached to the roof surface. Although not as efficient as solar panels, thin-film solar can be integrated into a window glazing system becoming part of the building skin; providing UV protection, radiant heat reduction, consistent renewable power during sunlight, and visual transparency. Thin-film permits the architect to integrate solar without it appearing as an afterthought, or secondary to the overall aesthetic approach. Not only has thin-film solar become a part of the window and glazing industry, but other practical applications for thin-film solar are coming on the market. Various types of roofing tile and shingle manufacturers are integrating thin-film solar into their products to permit the entire roof to function as a solar collector. Thin-film is being applied to flexible surfaces for placement between the standing seams of metal roofs, reducing roof penetrations in the process by “sticky back” application.
Thin-film technology has expanded the solar energy palette of renewable energy products, options, and applications. As citizens of the 21st Century we owe it to ourselves, especially those in the design and engineering community, to take advantage of these innovative breakthroughs that will move us further away from non-renewable resources for power, provide a more environmentally sensitive solution that benefits building occupants and the surrounding community . . . . not to mention money back in your pocket! Let’s collectively throw away the obsolete specifications of the past, embrace the realities of today, and “spec” forward.
The following videos demonstrate and explain in greater detail the benefits of thin-film BIPV systems.