The photovoltaics (PV) industry is making the transition from an expensive renewable technology to a major factor in the world’s energy supply, according to a recent report on building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) by BCC Research. Revenue to PV manufacturers for capacity devoted to BIPV products will increase from a little over $1.4 billion in 2014 to close to $2 billion in 2019. This revenue gain will occur despite steadily falling prices for PV power-generating capacity.
Façades are the most significant market segment in 2014 and will maintain that position through 2019. The BIPV glazing and standing seam metal roof segments will also experience large market expansions. The fastest-growing segments will be solar roof tile and skylights.
Technological innovations have expanded the opportunities for crystalline (c-Si) and polycrystalline silicon (poly-Si) modules to enter the BIPV space. Major advances include thinner cells, lighter modules and the ability to incorporate hard surfaces into standard-sized external building components such as roof tile, cladding, curtain walls, windows, skylights, breezeways, etc.
The ability for architects, real estate developers and building component manufacturers to offer a premium product is welcome as an added market opportunity when the global building construction and renovation industries are struggling to emerge in a sustainable manner from a global downturn (everywhere except in oil- and gas-rich countries). One exception to this is China, which is now building infrastructure in the hinterlands and offshore, and continually accumulating a globally dominant national PV manufacturing capability.
Some recovery is occurring in the new and renovated commercial and industrial building markets in the U.S., Brazil, the wealthier countries in the E.U., the Middle East, Asia Minor and Southeast Asia (particularly Indonesia and Singapore). Weak and incomplete grids in India make a strong case for bringing PV into the building components arena because dense population centers are vulnerable to power interruptions. Japan is another strong PV opportunity as the country furiously drives to replace its nuclear fleet of power plants with a countrywide renewable infrastructure in the face of the continuing catastrophe at the Daichi nuclear plant.
“In these tightened market conditions, the ability of PV manufacturers to mass-produce solar materials to bring down costs is paramount to be competitive and to survive,” said Michael Kujawa, analyst. “The PV world in general is maturing as the price of capacity approaches grid parity. To succeed in the BIPV universe, costs meet with concepts of compatibility with national economies, building structure, aesthetics and public support systems.”