Jennifer Malka | Sept 2021

BIPV stands for Building Integrated Photovoltaics;  the key word being: Integrated.  With BIPV, the windows, walls, roofs, and balconies of a building can all become power generating surfaces, making it easier to design a net zero home or even energy positive buildings. 

For example the Ellis Don London Office building in London Ontario is clad in solar panels. They used a locally designed system by a company called Ontario Panelization.  Here the PV panels seamlessly blend into the wall alongside typical aluminum panels for a unified appearance. 

Ontario Panelization’s Solar Cladding installed in London Ontario. 

What type of BIPV products are currently available? 

Many buildings in Toronto have already started to use these types of products.  TABC is following a number of Canadian companies that produce various BIPV products such as solar shingles, solar cladding, solar railings, and solar glass or windows. Mitrex for example is one company developing all of the above and more.. 

Rendering from Mitrex, an Etobicoke based manufacturer of BIPV products. A future project solar cladding, railings and windowsSolar Glass at the Perkins + Will Seneca College CITE building. (Photo by Peter Saunders)

Why BIPVs?

BIPVs are exciting because they increase the total surface area available for power generation, meaning your entire building envelope can start passively working for you.  BIPVs are more versatile than a tack on panel, with plenty of size, shape and colour options available to suit any modern green design aesthetic. 

The potential of Integrated Photovoltaics from ONYX Solar, one of the global leaders in BIPVs

Left: Hexagon shapes PV cladding at the Science Pyramid, Denver Botanic Gardens 

Right: Transparent coloured glass PV panels at the DEWA Research and Design Centre in Dubai

Can I use BIPVs on my home?

At this time, the solar shingle is still the most appropriate product for residential installations. Most of the solar glass and solar cladding products are still manufactured custom for each job and have minimum orders. And with small surface area, you want to maximize the efficiency of your panels, light coloured panels and vision glass are less efficient than a dark/opaque panel.  

If you are interested in green home design, a product you’ve likely already explored is the Tesla roof.  Although the Tesla brand roof is not yet available in Canada, there are smaller companies with similar products here in Canada.  Unconfirmed rumours indicate it will be rolled out here in 2022.  The Tesla Power Wall (battery) is currently available in Canada and pairs with various types of PV panels. 

Photo from Solar Shingle Canada; NetZero Energy Home in B.C.

What does a solar shingle roof cost? 

A solar shingle roof can be installed for just slightly more than a typical high end metal roof and has a lifespan of 30-50 years. One thing to keep in mind though is that most solar roof quotes do not include the cost of the storage battery.   Cladding products vary, but many are available around the $80-$100/sq.ft mark (installed) which is similar to other high end cladding materials such as zinc or copper. 

The solar power industry is growing and the technology becoming more efficient and affordable, which is why we at TABC, with our focus on affordable green design, are following the developments closely.  BIPVs are a very exciting part of this industry.  I imagine a future city where not just the buildings are generating power but the sidewalks, roads, and playgrounds too.   

We at TABC are passionate about low carbon design, both in the materials we choose and in the systems used to power the building. Switching your home to solar energy is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. If you are interested in finding out more about the solar potential of your property, sign up for consultation. 

Links to companies mentioned above:

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