Thoughts on BIPV Glass

Overall, prospects for BIPV glass have improved alongside those of BIPV broadly, as everyone moves beyond the solar PV industry market meltdown from several years ago. Then as now, the same basic goal exists for BIPV glass: how to expand beyond the prestige buildings niche and tap into far larger residential and commercial building markets.

First and foremost, this will require continued improvements in both BIPV glass functionality and cost to compete against both traditional construction materials and PV systems. We are seeing gradual progress here, particularly involving alternative PV technologies (OPV, DSC, and thin-film, primarily CIGS), and improvements on the c-Si side as well will maintain its dominant presence. Improved encapsulation technologies are contributing as well.

However, as n-tech sees it, right now this sector cannot rely on cost and technology improvements to pave the way into bigger end-market opportunities. What’s needed are new approaches to translate BIPV glass’ value in other ways; primarily this means convincing designers and building owners to invest based on aesthetics alongside or even ahead of function. We also envision specific opportunities in the continued “green” meme (e.g. through zero-energy buildings) and more broadly in urbanization trends where bigger buildings and heavy energy usage have a natural affinity with BIPV.

Ultimately, we think BIPV glass’ best story will be in its true monolithic integration and ability to incorporate multiple desirable functions beside electricity generation, such as self-cleaning and self-healing. These will not only enable new product/marketing strategies, but also will reshape the supply chain, putting glass firms into a more central role. That also will de-emphasize the reliance upon architects in the process, which will indeed be necessary for down-market expansion