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BIPV Industry and Market – List of Main Companies,Suppliers and Manufacturers

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BIPV is the acronym for  Building Integrated Photovoltaics which means the integration of photovoltaic materials into building structures such as roofs,windows and facades.It not only replaces the building supplies but also generate electricity creating a killer green product.This is one of the fastest growing segment in the solar industry and it has been estimated that almost 6-7% of the solar industry is made of BIPV products.A wide variety of technologies and products are being used in creating BIPV products.Though a large number of big solar panel manufactures like Suntech,Yingli,Canadian Solar have come out with BIPV Panels and Products,the segment has not become as big mainly because of higher costs vis a vis the standard crystalline solar systems.There are also specialized BIPV suppliers such as Ascent Solar and Konarka whose products are more suited to the BIPV Industry than the normal module industry.Some of these suppliers have no option as their technology is no longer competitive with the Chinese solar panel producers.Solyndra had a niche product which could be used in rooftops with ease of installation and low weight.However the high costs drove it to bankruptcy.The next leg up to the BIPV industry should come up with more BIPV products from the Major Solar Companies and as cost  of solar silicon decline further with scale and innovation

Mainstream Solar Power Companies

  1. Suntech – The company sells a silicon solar panels with a 185-195 Watt Power Rating to replace roof tiles.The Module is aptly named Just Roof.Suntech Power’s Just-Roof building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) module has been approved by French certification body CEIAB .Suntech SolarBlend BIPV Roof Tiles are dimensionally compatible with standard flat concrete roof tiles and comes in a variety of colors such as brown, grey and terracotta.It also sells the Crystal clear Light Thru modules which use crystalline cells sandwiched between 2 sheets of unframed glass. The gaps between the cells can be varied to allow the required level of light through, creating the desired light effect.Suntech’s MSK Solar Design LineTM of products are BIP modules which can be used as standard building materials.. MSK is the name of the Japanese company that Suntech acquired in 2006.
  2. Canadian Solar – The company sells 55-115 Watt Crystalline Silicon Modules for the BIPV Market.These modules are frameless with 25-50% Transparency and 5-30kg/metre square weight density.The company is selling these modules for all building structures.and is available in a variety of sizes and thickness.The warranty is same as that for normal silicon panels with 90% efficiency after 10 years and 80% till 25 years.
  3. Sunpower (Total) – Sunpower is a vertically integrated solar energy company known more for its highest efficiency solar panels.Sunpower is present in all 3 segments of the solar systems business namely a)residential b)commercial and c) utility. Sunpower makes the highest efficiency, building integrated SunTiles. The SunTile brand blends into flat and S-Tile roofs to convert sunlight into clean energy. SunTiles are all-black and  built to withstand 110 mph wind-driven rain.
  4. Sharp the Japanese Zaibatsu known more for its Electronics Products is also the world’s No 1 Company in terms Solar Module Revenues.Despite its leadership in c-Si Technology,it has shifted focus to a-Si thin film due to higher costs.Sharp has started shipping a-Si modules from its 1 GW capacity plant in Sakai. It also sells solar shingles in the form os 64 watt  solar panels .The Sharp ND62RU1F is a group of solar shingles all arranged together.It is not really a solar shingle since it does not integrate into the roof but its light since its made of  thin film silicon technology and easy to install.
  5. Yingli Green Energy – Yingli Green Energy which is the second biggest Chinese solar power company after Suntech,has also started selling transparent solar modules made from silicon for the BIPV market.The company has designed the solar modules so that the aluminium frames have very little footprint.The company has used it BIPV solar panels in a hotel nearby to showcase its BIPV Technology.

Other companies making BIPV Modules are Schott Solar,Mitsubishi,Scheuten Solar,Wurth Solar,Energy Glass,Vidursolar,ET Solar

Specialized BIPV Suppliers

  1. Global Solar Power -Global Solar produces a combined 75MW of flexible solar cells based on our CIGS thin film solar technology in the USA and Germany.It sells the BIPV products under the  PowerFLEX BIPV tradename.It sells these modules in 100 and 300 Watt Power Ratings.Global Solar Energy has entered into module supply agreements with Iscom, Energyka and B.A. Energie, three Italian roof specialist companies.
  2. Lumeta – Lumeta is a US  based solar contractor and does not make the solar panels itself.The company sells BIPV products for residential and commercial applications.Lumeta Solar S Tile displaces approximately three traditional concrete or clay tiles. The actual solar laminate is a standard glass superstrate  and Tedlar substrate construction, and utilizes monocrystalline cell technology. The electrical connections are housed in grooves in the bottom side of the Tiles.Tiles are daisy-chain connected using standard connectors.Each Tile has 12 cells and has a 28 Watts power rating.Lumeta PowerPly modules are simple to install on low slope roofing systems
  3. SoloPower – A DOE funded US CIGs startup,Solopower is also trying to make a name in the flexible solar panels space of which BIPV is the biggest market segment.SoloPower also manufactures Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide (CIGS) panels.
  4. Ascent Solar WaveSol Thin Film Modules integrate into building materials to produce solar power. WaveSol Light modules  is claimed to deliver the highest power density available on thin-film plastic substrates. Ascent Solar modules laminates can be used  in roofing, shading and building surfaces .They are available in 5 meters for large, flat surfaces; also available in 2 meters with 1 lb/sq ft weight.
  5. Focus Materials has begun to offer its Focus Wall custom-fabricated glass-and-aluminium curtain walls, with built-in semi-transparent thin-film solar technology from Abound Solar, along with vBoost constant-voltage converter modules from eIQ Energy.
  6. Konarka Technologies sells  a lightweight, flexible organic solar panel.Konarka’s technology is a photo-reactive polymer material  which can be printed or coated inexpensively onto flexible substrates using roll-to-roll manufacturing.The resulting Power Plastic can then be manufactured into a wide range of end-use products. The company is working with  ThyssenKrupp to develop steel roof and other construction elements for BIPV
  7. Onyx Solar – Onyx Solar is not a solar products manufacturer rather a BIPV Solution Seller.The company focuses in-situ generation of electricity using BIPV products.
  8. Energy Conversion Devices (Uni Solar) – After First Solar,Energy Conversion Devices is the second largest US company in Thin Film Technology.After a few quarters of profits in 2008,the company went into the red as its flexible a-Si modules failed to cut costs as fast as others.It has been shutting factories in the US and shifting to low cost locations.Still one of the biggest independent Thin Film Producers.Seems more likely that it will be bought out then survive independently.The company sells solar shingles mainly in Italy and France.The reason is that those countries give higher subsidy for BIPV applications under which solar shingles made by Uni Solar qualify. PowerShingle is the brand under which Uni Solar sells its solar shingles.
  9. Dow Chemicals – This Chemicals Conglomerate has started producing it properietary Solar Shingles recently.While the company first showcased its DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ SOLAR SHINGLE in 2009,these solar tiles will be available commercially only this year.Note Dow uses the same thin film technology Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) used by UniSolar.The company has delayed the introduction of the solar shingles technology despite developing them as far back as 2009.The company was supposed to start a factory in Brazil.The company claims that the installed cost of Solar Shingles will be lower than solar panels (though its difficult to think that it will be possible with solar panel prices crashing to as low as $1/watt nowadays).



Abhishek Shah

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