Be-Smart: building-integrated photovoltaics for energy

An image of photovoltaics being used for energy production
© iStock/phaisarn2517

Be-Smart is an EU research project focusing on the deployment of building-integrated photovoltaics, in response to near zero-energy EU regulations for new buildings.

What is building-integrated photovoltaics?

According to the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPLF), photovoltaics can be used directly in building and renovation projects as a construction material to transform buildings into electricity producers and reduce CO2 emissions. This can be achieved by integrating solar panels into facades and roofs.

EPLF notes, “Many building surfaces are ideally suited for the use of solar energy, but high costs, technical and aesthetic considerations have long kept building owners and architects from using even a small part of this potential.”

The growth of photovoltaics in the construction sector

Laure-Emmanuelle Perret-Aebi, the coordinator of the project at EPFL’s Photovoltaics and Thin Film Electronics Laboratory (PV-Lab), said: “The use of BIPV in facades and in the construction sector more broadly is expanding rapidly, thanks in part to the pioneering technology developed by EPFL and CSEM. But we need to make this technology more accessible so that it can be used more extensively and not just in flagship building projects.”

The partners of the Be-Smart project will design multifuctional solar panels. The intention is to produce energy as well as perform the functions of other building materials such as insulation, soundproofing, and aesthetics.

Solar energy technology

Perret-Aebi explained: “The technology is different from that used in solar panels, which are designed for mass production and now manufactured primarily in China.”

The technology runs on solar energy. Christophe Ballif, a professor at EPFL’s School of Engineering, the head of EPFL PV-Lab and the director of CSEM PV-center, added: “Solar energy produces 10 to 20 times less CO2 than conventional thermal power plants. What’s more, large solar farms are the cheapest way of producing electricity, even in countries that don’t get a lot of sunlight, like Germany.”

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