Net-Zero Energy through Building Integrated Solar
When most people hear the term “Net-Zero,” they associate the term with energy, which is one of ZeroHouse’s design goals. In the off-grid electricity market, an emerging section holds a lot of potential (pun intended) for growth, especially in urban communities. While mounting solar photovoltaic panels on top of a roof is common, Building Integrated Solar Panels is a growing trend, and is really starting to gain traction. ZeroHouse is exploring the use of this technology with the help of BIPVco, which is yet another feature that places the ZeroHouse on the cutting edge of sustainability.
What makes Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) the new frontier of solar? Currently, roof-mounted photovoltaics is most commonly used, which is the application of solar technology after a building has been constructed. This technology is already reaching maturity in the market, as shown by the many solar panels you may come across on residential or commercial buildings. On the other hand, BIPV is the integration of solar technology into the structure of the building during the design and construction processes. Building integrated panels offer a host of advantages such being lightweight, aesthetically pleasing, extremely durable, and a greater resistance to environmental conditions such as heavy winds. Can’t forget about material, installation, and maintenance cost savings too!
Integrating solar into existing structures is not only restricted to buildings, as shown in 2014 when there was hype about solar integrated roads with plans finally taking off late last year. The market for photovoltaics is projected to grow to $2.4 billion in 2017, up from $606 million in 2012. It makes sense to see this growth, considering the incredible cost savings homeowners could expect to see, based on this recent study.
We’re looking forward to having 3.84 kilowatts of electricity generated from rooftop solar for ZeroHouse. We are fortunate to have BiPVCo sponsoring us by providing our solar panels, a UK based company that uses Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cells. While thin-film photovoltaic technology has yet to take over the market due to conventional mono-crystalline being more efficient than older thin-film designs, with BiPVCo’s cells having efficiencies in excess of 15%, there is likely to be a change in the market preference!
Now for the final question: Can all of a family’s needs actually be met with this technology? 3.84 kilowatts sound like a lot, but what exactly does it mean in terms of application? An energy model was generated for ZeroHouse, which included expected energy use for appliances, lighting, and hot water. The following diagram breaks down the energy use by category, in kilowatt hours, with 4,487 kilowatt hours being generated in this model. A mere 18% of the generated energy would be used for heating and cooling needs (460 kilowatt hours being used for heating and 311 kilowatt hours being used for cooling). The consumption amounts in the figure are for a 3-person family in North American standards, with 1,799 kilowatt hours for hot water, 2,792 kilowatt hours for appliances, and 718 kilowatt hours for lighting. By adapting to European standards of energy usage, ZeroHouse could be truly net-zero and meeting all its energy needs with rooftop solar alone! Efficient lighting and appliances will help expedite the net-zero dream.