Building integrated solar architecture to drive the future of the photovoltaic industry

Did you know that solar panels are not only for putting on the roof? In Austria, the SINFONIA partner ATB-Becker is developing various technological solutions to integrate photovoltaic systems in façades architecture. In addition to the energy they can provide, solar panels have multiple benefits for building’s architecture, including good thermal and sound insulation properties and provide better lighting conditions inside the building.


“Building integrated photovoltaic systems open a wide range of new design options for architects, but they also have various practical uses thanks to their different applications” says Gernot Becker, founder of ATB-Becker. Among these uses, solar panels can serve as a sun protection solution, be integrated in sound abatement walls on highways, roused for overhead glazing in winter gardens, carports or on balconies. Due to their inclination, solar façades also have a stable production yield all through the year, thus providing an optimal solution for regular consumers.


Make your façade a new source of profit


Like every innovative technological solution, building integrated photovoltaics are still costly and depending on the solution chosen, this cost can range from €300 per square metre for roof top panels to €1700 for photovoltaic roof gardens. As solar panels produce electricity that can be self-consumed or sold on the market however, this investment can be recovered quite rapidly over the medium term: for the Trop supermarket in Tirol, it took only ten years for the new photovoltaic glass façade to start making profit. Once the original investment for installation is recovered, it is very easy to make profit because maintenance costs are relatively low, with only inverters needing to be replaced after 10 to 13 years.


How to become a successful prosumer


If electricity production from renewable energy sources has the disadvantage of being fluctuating and thus causing imbalances on the grid, many solutions already exist to maximise self-consumption and limit this inconvenience. Demand side management is one of these promising solutions and can be achieved using smart grid devices or simply through adapted energy management from commercial and industrial consumers able to balance their power and electricity profiles., Other possible ways to increase self-consumption include the use of heat pumps, photovoltaic boilers or battery storage systems.


Nevertheless, national rules for electricity supply and distribution are not the same in all EU Member states. Hence, the definition of the best investment strategy for building integrated photovoltaic is highly dependent on the level of the feed-in tariffs and the legal framework for electricity cost sharing in multi-family houses. Within SINFONIA, a photovoltaic façade has already been integrated on the wood gasification plant in Innsbruck and on residential buildings. Further photovoltaic projects will be implemented in the coming months