Integrated Photovoltaics – Areas for the Energy Transformation

What does “Integrated Photovoltaics” mean?

Integrated photovoltaics blends into the outer surface of buildings, roadways, railways and vehicles, such that the solar cells are often no longer visible from outside. Integrated photovoltaics uses land areas jointly with agriculture or floats on the surface of pit lakes created by flooding former open-cut mines.  New types of technology and design options allow free choice of formats and colours for integrated modules, such that their connection circuits and cell architecture can be completely covered if necessary.  Specific requirements arising from the application, for example minimised weight per area or extremely high mechanical resistance, can be met by the choice of suitable materials.

 

Move the mouse over the graphic to learn more about the possibilities of integrated photovoltaics.

Integrated Photovoltaics
Building Integrated PV Floating PV Road Integrated PV Agrophotovolatics Vehicle Integrated PV Urban PV

How much photovoltaics is needed in Germany?

The German Federal Government committed itself to an energy transformation which involves increasing the proportion of electricity generated from renewable resources to 65% by 2030 and to at least 80% by 2050. Almost all energy system scenarios demonstrate that photovoltaics (PV) in addition to wind energy will be the most important pillar of the future energy supply in Germany and globally. According to calculations made by Fraunhofer ISE and depending on the boundary conditions, up to 500 gigawatts of installed photovoltaics will be needed for the energy transformation to be successful. The potential exists to install this amount in Germany.

What is gained by integrating PV?

By the middle of 2019, 48 GW of photovoltaics had been installed in Germany, with about 75 % on roofs and the rest in free-standing plants. The total installed power must be increased by up to 10 times to achieve the energy transformation. It can be foreseen that massive further expansion of free-standing plants would lead to conflicts and acceptance problems. By integrating PV technology into building envelopes, car exteriors, roadways and railways, and combining them with agricultural and surface-water areas, enormous areas which are already used for other purposes can also be exploited for generation of solar electricity. Integrated photovoltaic technology thus solves not only land-use conflicts but also results in positive synergistic effects in many cases.

Where can areas for integration be found?

Whereas the theoretical potential encompasses complete usage of the corresponding resources, the technical potential is restricted to those applications, for which utilization is technically plausible.  The following figure shows estimates of the technical potential for integrating PV in Germany. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and agrophotovoltaics (APV) alone already provide areas to generate nominal power of more than 1 terawatt (TW) each. The economic-practical potentials that are relevant for implementation are determined from the technical potentials when further economic, regulatory and practical boundary conditions and acceptance questions are also taken into account. 

Technical potential for integrated photovoltaics in Germany
© Fraunhofer ISE

Opportunities offered by integration

The concept of integrated photovoltaics opens up many opportunities, which will be briefly introduced in the next paragraphs.

  • By integration into existing built-up areas and vehicle exteriors, dual usage of agricultural areas and floating on pit lakes, PV technology does not occupy any new valuable land areas. On the contrary, costs to provide installation area are eliminated partly or completely.

  • Integrated photovoltaics demands many individual solutions. Products with identical dimensions and standardized design cannot be used in many cases.  As a result, opportunities arise for local PV production with sustainable value creation by German and European enterprises.

  • When photovoltaics is integrated into existing exterior surfaces, as in building-integrated PV or vehicle-integrated PV, the photovoltaic components are mounted onto an existing substructure. In contrast to free-standing installation on open areas, hardly any additional material is needed to mount the modules. Furthermore, the front cover of the modules, often a glass pane, also serves as a protective cover for the building or vehicle or acts as a noise barrier. These synergistic effects reduce materials consumption, improve the ecological balance of the photovoltaics and provide cost benefits which are becoming increasingly important as the prices for the solar cells themselves fall dramatically.

  • Building-integrated PV (BIPV) and vehicle-integrated PV (VIPV) generate electricity near the consumer or on vehicles. They thus reduce usage of the electricity grid and increase the mileage of electric vehicles.  Façade-integrated solar modules facing other directions than toward the equator supply more electricity in the morning or afternoon than over midday, and thus offer advantageous generation profiles.