In one minute, the sun provides enough
energy to supply the world's energy needs for one year.
In one day, it provides more energy
than the world's population could consume in 27 years.
The sun's energy is free, and the supply is
abundant. All we need to do is find a way to use
A Swiss scientist first figured out a way to
harness the sun's energy in 1767, when he used a solar collector to
heat water and cook food. So the idea of putting the energy of the
sun to work has been around for a long time. We just need to find
more ways to use it in our daily lives. One such way is called
Building Integrated Photovoltaics or BIPV Technology.
Imagine you own a building—a home, school,
business, warehouse, hotel, restaurant, store, or whatever you like.
Imagine your building is producing some of the electricity it needs
in a quiet and clean manner with no fuel costs or large
Imagine the electricity-generating device has
a long lifetime and low maintenance costs with no moving
parts, noise, emissions, or fuel lines. Now imagine that this
device is actually the walls, roof, and windows of your
building-the same structure that keeps out the rain, heat,
snow, and cold. It's not Science Fiction! It's Building
Integrated Photovoltaics, and it is a very real part of
building construction today.
What are Photovoltaics?
Photovoltaics (PV) are solid-state, semi-conductor
type devices that produce electricity when exposed to light. Broken
down, the word photovoltaics actually means "electricity from
light." Many hand-held calculators run off power from room light,
which would be one example of this phenomenon. Larger power
applications for this technology are also possible. The figure shows
how photovoltaics works. Sunlight knocks electrons free in the
photovoltaic material, which flow out of the device as electric
current. The more intense the sunlight, the stronger the electric
Understanding Building Integrated
With Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV),
photovoltaic material becomes an integral part of the building: the
walls, roof, and vision glass. Sunlight falling on the photovoltaic
components creates electricity. This electricity flows through power
conversion equipment and into the building's electrical distribution
system, feeding electricity to the building's electrical loads. In
essence, the skin of the building produces electricity for the
building, typically enough to power three to five classrooms. This
activity occurs in conjunction with traditional electricity supplied
by such companies as Wisconsin Public Service.
BIPV technology is widely used throughout Europe,
but is just beginning to be applied here in the United States. Most
U.S. architects, engineering firms, building owners, and builders
know very little about Building Integrated Photovoltaics. The
majority of BIPV products exist for commercial construction, and
commercial buildings can accommodate the several thousand dollar
cost required for installing even a small one-kilowatt BIPV system.
The technical potential in commercial buildings is significant, and
they suffer fewer problems from orientation and shading.
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