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    Building integrated solar panels

    Danielle Bowling and David Wheeldon

    No longer content to simply bolt on solar panels, roofing manufacturers are integrating the technology into their products.

    One of the fastest growing segments of the solar panel industry, building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are now being used to replace conventional building materials in parts of the building envelope like the roof, skylights, or facades.

    An advantage of BIPV over non-integrated systems is that the initial cost can be offset by reducing the amount spent on building materials and labour that would normally be used to construct the part of the building that the BIPV modules replace.

    An early example of the possibilities is CSR House, a BPN Sustainability Awards 2012 finalist, which was recoginised as an important potential trendsetter for Australia’s housing market.

    CSR Innovations project manager Scott Clarkson and CSR Bricks & Roofing product manager roofing Linda Tadrosse explain the project is a showcase for innovation in building, materials and ideas with sustainability in mind. CSR incorporated many of its innovative products in the house, including the Monier SolarTile, integrated photovoltaic system. The house was built to research how residential buildings for the future may be built more efficiently while delivering higher levels of energy efficiency as well as meeting the changing needs of the market.

    The CSR House is a two-storey, ¾ bedroom, three bathroom dwelling with a double garage, dine-in kitchen, two living areas and an alfresco BBQ area.

    Monier’s SolarTile works in a similar capacity as a conventional ‘bolt on’ photovoltaic panel, but was developed specifically to integrate seamlessly with the Monier range of flat profiled concrete roof tiles, Monier says the SolarTile is a truly innovative product that delivers a ‘green energy solution’ with good design and aesthetic appeal at its core. A 1.5 kW Monier SolarTile system was installed on the CSR House, integrating seamlessly with Monier’s Horizon concrete tiles.

    The modular designed tile system requires no drilling through the roofing material and lends itself to smaller and difficult shaped roof sections, where Bolt-on panels may not fit. The tiles are also 25 per cent lighter than standard roof tiles, reducing the overall weight of the roof, meaning you maintain your roof truss warrantees.

    Other companies offering BIPV include Stratco, which claims its Solatop BIPV panel is Australia’s first fully integrated building product. An entire roof area or facade can be covered with the panelling system, or it can be integrated with all common roof materials, including concrete, terracotta and steel tiles and all steel and aluminium sheet profiles.

    In July, the Federal Government announced a $2.3 million grant to help BlueScope Steel develop its own steel roofing BIPV, which they say stands to make Australia a ‘‘world leader’’ in BIPV systems. The project was tipped to be less than a year away from realisation.


    This article first appeared in BPN Magazine, December 2012.

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