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BIPV: standalone off-grid systems

BIPV: standalone off-grid systemsBIPV was considered as a good-to-have product, but with the falling prices and increase in efficiency of PV modules, users have taken a note of the product
Building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are photovoltaic materials/modules integrated with the exteriors of the building or with parts of the building to provide alternate or main source of electric power. The total BIPV system consists of structural elements that hold the modules and integrate with the building. It also involves cabling/wiring, solar inverters, storage system and so on as and when necessary.
Photovoltaic module is one of the new applications in India, though it has been in use in a few European and Western developed countries for long. Until recently, BIPV was considered as a “good to have” product but with the falling prices and increase in efficiency of PV modules, users have taken a note of the product. The seamless integration of BIPV with the exteriors/part of the building has added to the acceptability of BIPV among the end users and the key members of the building/construction value chain; namely, architects, town planners, developers, builders, EPC contractors etc.
In a few developed economies, the BIPV system is connected with the available utility grid to feed power apart from supplying power for internal use of the building. In India, BIPV has been used as standalone off-grid systems.
AdvantagesBIPV can be used for the dual purpose of producing electricity and serving as a building exterior materialIt provides better aesthetics compared to conventional building without glass panelsNo challenge of acquisition of land or using the building rooftops for installing PV rooftops can be used for other purposesIt can be integrated/retrofitted with an existing building. A large number of old buildings goes for renovation after a certain period of time. BIPV can be integrated with an old building up for renovation.
DisadvantagesIt has high initial capital costs. The cost of installing a BIPV system is about 20 25 per cent higher than an equivalent rooftop-based PV systemCompetition from other renewable energy technologies/solutions like micro wind turbines, hybrid solutions and others can restrict market penetration. There are other competitive and ready to integrate renewable energy solutions such as DG-Battery, DG- PV (Roof top PV) etc.
BIPV market drivers

Reduction in price and expectation that the price will further reduce for solar modules. The price of solar modules has come down drastically in the last 2-3 years and is expected to slip further. This would have a positive effect on the overall PV Industry. BIPV would also be benefited of this situation
The efficiency of solar modules is increasing. This augers well for the BIPV market as this is highly space dependent
Favourable central and state governments’ policies for solar power and government’s focus on increasing the contribution of solar power in the overall energy mix. This would drive the overall PV Industry. BIPV market would also benefit because of the favourable government policies
Involvement of wide arena of the building/construction value chain members (architects, town planners, developers, builders, EPC contractors etc.) which will help in the growth of the market. The growth of the on-grid and rooftop PV market is dependent largely on the government incentives. The growth of the BIPV market is not only driven by the government incentives, but also the push from the building/construction value chain members
Recently introduced BIPV products are available in customised shapes, which can be retrofitted with an existing building.
BIPV market restraints

High labour and material cost involved restricts the growth of BIPV systems. The cost of installing a BIPV system works out to be about 20-25 per cent higher than an equivalent roof top PV system
No separate incentives for buildings except a few countries such as Italy which use BIPV systems. BIPV users are not entitled to separate incentives apart from that which is applicable for other PV users
Limited availability of building exteriors/other locations in a building for BIPV installation hinders large-scale use of the system. BIPV systems are currently limited to commercial building applications. This ultimately compels the users to have conventional backup power source for business continuity.        
Key industry challenges

Less numbers of existing BIPV buildings which can be used as a guide for new BIPV installations. As the BIPV market is nascent in India, not much data points (on the advantages) of BIPV under Indian conditions are available on the same. This poses a huge challenge for the adoption of BIPV systems
Lack of locally available trained manpower to commission BIPV installations. There is shortage of trained manpower to execute BIPV projects as it is a new concept in India.
Absence of integrated codes, standard and regulations in regard to BIPV systems. BIPV serves two separate industries (PV and construction). Both the industries have separate codes. There is no integrated code for BIPV systems
As BIPV becomes integral to the construction activity of the building, the customer and all the construction value chain members have to be convinced on the importance/relevance of BIPV for the particular project from the project inception stage till the construction is over. Getting all on the same page with varying mind set is a key challenge.
BIPV in IndiaIt is still in a nascent stage in the country. Some PV module suppliers have executed BIPV projects in the country, but those are more of “demonstration or pilot” projects. The high initial cost, lack of separate incentives and negligible involvement of building/construction value chain members have been the major reasons for the slow growth of the BIPV market in the country.
The last wordA new range of BIPV products are beginning to enter the market. These products are flexible, can cover curved surfaces, and are available in customised shapes.
As the Indian Government is also focusing on growing the “Non Mega Watt (MW) Class”, PV market, rooftop solar (expected to hold a lion’s share) and BIPV systems are expected to play a major role in the development of the “Non MW Class” PV market.
Though BIPV will not go a long way in meeting the country’s ambitious solar plan like grid connected and rooftop solar, but it will surely help in meeting some of the requirements in its own unique way.
Authored by -Energy & Power Systems Practice, Frost & Sullivan

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