BIPV maximises the amount of renewable energy that a building can generate, making it a more sustainable and an environmentally friendly option. Photo: MYSUN

Solar rising: New study maps India’s promising BIPV journey

A recently released assessment report provides an overview of the BIPV sector in India, including its current status, key challenges, and future opportunities

India has emerged as a key destination for solar investments, due to the country’s vast solar potential and attractive investment climate. With strong economic growth and an expanding urban population, India offers a favourable environment for solar development. Solar energy is an important part of India’s energy mix, and the country has set ambitious targets for solar development. With strong economic growth and an expanding urban population, India offers a favourable environment for solar development. 

Prepared jointly by University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland and India’s CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), the Indian BIPV 2022: Status and Roadmap report was released in August this year. The report provides useful insights into the current state of the Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) sector in India and future trajectories. 

What is BIPV?

A promising way to integrate renewable energies into the built environment is through Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). This incorporates solar PV panels into the roof, windows, facades, and shading devices of a building. By doing so, BIPV maximises the amount of renewable energy that a building can generate, making it a more sustainable and an environmentally friendly option. Just as smart energy metres can track electricity usage, BIPV panels can track sunlight. By placing solar panels on building windows, roofs, and facades, the building can optimise energy production through shading devices.

In order for the Indian BIPV sector to grow, it needs the involvement of multiple stakeholders as frontline participants. The cost of BIPV is offset by the reduced amount spent on conventional building materials and labour. Additionally, once the building is operational, there are savings from the generated electrical energy from sunlight.

BIPV’s potential for buildings

The mapping of solar potential score for buildings helps in identifying the best surfaces for BIPV integration and efficient investment. For new buildings, a score mapping system can support the generation and modification of BIPV innovative designs for better energy and economic optimisation with efficient material utilisations.

The real estate sector already accounts for around 7 percent of the Indian GDP, and is a significant source of employment in the country. The present decade is likely to see further growth of the real estate and construction sectors, fuelled by the adoption of cutting-edge construction technologies. This phase of growth provides a window of opportunity to develop and expand BIPVs in the country.

India’s PV potential

The potential for solar photovoltaic (PV) energy generation in different states of India has been calculated by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

States like Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh constitute 50% of the total PV potential in India. However, among the states, only Punjab, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu have utilised more than 20% of their PV potential. The remaining states have not been able to make use of a majority of their PV potential, which presents a significant opportunity for growth in the renewable energy sector.

India is now the fifth-largest country in terms of installed solar capacity. With a target of procuring around 300 GW of electricity from solar by 2030, India is poised to make a big impact in the global solar market. To achieve the target, India has to focus on the two key drivers: increasing tender activity, and decreasing the solar PV tariff. This will enable India to conclude one of the lowest solar auction bids around the globe.

Mapping the progress of India’s PV sector 

Unlike standalone PV utility systems and rooftop solar systems, the penetration of the BIPV sector in the market requires direct renewable energy policies integrated with other uninitiated policies and regulations in building energy and construction sectors.

To initiate and define a collective and concrete roadmap for BIPV implementation, following factors are to be taken into consideration:

  1. Perspective: Government policies, initiatives and business models
  1. Opportunities: Multi-functionality and cost reduction potential
  1. BIPV industrial sphere: Technology readiness, supply chain and certification
  1. Innovation landscape: Research projects and engagement of international communities
  1. Defining stakeholder involvement: Need for stakeholder awareness, extensive project planning and execution

BIPV applications:

Facade: PV systems can be integrated into building facades, replacing traditional glazing with semi-transparent thin-film or crystalline solar panels. These surfaces typically have less access to direct sunlight than rooftop PV systems, but can offer a larger available area.

Rooftops: In many cases, PV material can be used in lieu of roofing material, or even the roof itself. For example, in a pitched roof, solar shingles can be used in place of traditional shingles.

Walls and canopies: The installation of BIPV systems can provide shading and shelter from extreme weather conditions, as well as generate energy, making it an ideal solution.

Glazing: Solar cells that are ultra-thin may be used to create surfaces that are semi-transparent. This would allow daylight to penetrate while simultaneously generating electricity.

BIPV installation has the following benefits:

  1. It adds aesthetic value to the building; BIPV glass comes in different colours, amp and transparency, which can be incorporated in the form of facades, skylights, canopies, railings, and more.
  1. BIPV ensures thermal insulation as it heats up during energy conversion, reducing building heat loss.
  1. Solar awnings provide shade to the building walls, causing a cooling effect.
  1. It offers noise cancellation up to the value of 25 dB, due to multiple layer composition.
  1. Integrated photovoltaics are an environmentally friendly technology as they do not produce pollution.
  1. Building-integrated photovoltaic solutions are suitable for a variety of building types and applications and can be integrated in a variety of innovative ways.

Solar companies that provide BIPV consulting services can help their clients to understand the process of installing BIPV and the associated benefits. By understanding the entire process, clients can make informed decisions. When developers and architects partner with a solar company like U-Solar, they can make a big difference in the BIPV sector. BIPV consultancy services must include the following steps for the best result.

BIPV Consultancy: When implementing BIPV, there are certain steps that should be followed in order to produce the best possible outcome. Certain basic steps include:

  1. BIPV architecture

The first step is to work on BIPV design and consultation. This involves working closely with architects to get the best possible design that meets the vision and needs of what a company is looking for.

  1. Technical evaluation

After optimising the design, the next step to be considered is technical evaluation. Here the assessment of BIPV layouts integrated with the building architecture from a technical standpoint must take place. This includes reviewing the structural stability of the building, the electrical grid connection, and the performance of the BIPV system.

  1. Comparative assessment

This step involves benchmarking various BIPV modules in the market. By benchmarking various BIPV modules against each other, a company can get a better idea of which one will best meet the needs in terms of cost, efficiency, and other factors.

Benefits of BIPV consultancy service

In recent years, BIPV consultancy services have gathered steam and for good reason, considering the technology’s potential. Above all, such services offer effective guidance on how to install BIPVs and the technical and financial viability of projects. 

For starters, these services help to assess, pitch, and determine the feasibility of a project for execution. Once that is done, they will provide a comprehensive overview of how the project will be carried out. Next would be a detailed understanding of the timeline and cost of the project, which would help to make informed decisions about a client’s investment. These services also act as a go-between for the client and installer and will help to build trust among the stakeholders. 

When planning for a BIPV system, it is important to consider both environmental and structural factors. These factors can influence the economics, aesthetics and overall functionality of the solar system. By taking both of these factors into account, you can maximise the value of your BIPV system.

The potential for solar energy to meet India’s needs for both energy and buildings is a key challenge. If this potential can be realised through BIPV, it would match the growth of the construction and solar sectors in the country’s upcoming urbanisation. The world’s progress toward the SDGs will largely depend on India’s progress.

Dhwani Sunku is the head of business development in U-Solar Clean Energy Solutions. U-Solar is a leading provider of solar energy solutions that are helping companies transition to renewable energy sources. It was responsible for the installation of India’s largest BIPV plant “CtrlS Data Center”. 

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