Solar panels are set to become a common feature of the UK skyline, thanks to the governments FIT scheme and especially with the 2012 tariff deadline fast approaching. However, the dark blue or black, silver-streaked panels generally associated with solar modules are not everyone’s idea of beauty when it comes to improving their home.
Could the traditional roof- mounted solar cells with their rigid design soon be making way for a new generation of flexible integrated solar PV systems also known as Building-Applied PV (BAPV)? This new technology already exists and is being used more and more in the construction of new buildings, either as a primary or secondary source of electricity.This new solar PV is being made of thin flexible materials that can be attached or adhered to roofing membranes. It can be applied to be seen or disguised among the usual building materials. This allows for the adaption of existing surfaces and the ability to turn any surface facing the right way into a power generating resource.
Applications are seemingly endless. Residential towers can be wrapped in angled bands of solar PV that provide constant passive thermal benefits to the apartments. Thin film facades can be constructed for use on commercial properties and suites of offices and domestic buildings can enjoy roof slates made of crystalline PV. In fact, solar roof tiles, shingles and crystalline panels in numerous shapes, sizes, colours, patterns and levels of transparency are becoming an exciting range of new materials for architects and designers to work with.
It seems it’s time to look beyond the functionality and find ways to blend efficiency and aesthetics seamlessly into the structure of buildings of the future. It could soon be impossible to discern if a building facade or roof is actually an electricity generator or not. Eventually it will automatically be assumed it is.