Photovoltaic applications

Commercial buildings have perhaps the greatest potential for PV cells to be integrated into their glazing as well as being roof mounted. Even at the present state of the technology, Ove Arup and Partners estimate that one third of the electricity needed to run an office complex could come from PVs with only a 2 per cent addition to the building cost. The main advantage of commercial application is that offices use most of their energy during daylight hours. The case study of the Zicer building in the University of East Anglia will serve as an example (Chapter 18).

One of the challenges of the next decades will be to retrofit buildings with PVs. A pioneer example is the Northumberland Building for the University of Northumbria in Newcastle where cells have been applied to the spandrels beneath the continuous windows (see Smith, P., and Pitts, A.C. (1997), Concepts in Practice Energy, Batsford).

Given the abundance of information and advice available, designers should now be able to grasp the opportunities offered by such technologies which also allow exploration of a range of new aesthetic options for the building envelope.

The most extensive use of PV technology has been in the commercial and institutional sector. Reference was made earlier to the solar offices at Doxford with its complete southerly facade supporting 400 000 PV cells.

More recently the technology has been incorporated into an atrium roof at Nottingham University's Jubilee Campus (Figure 13.4).

However, much more ambitious PV programmes have been carried out on the continent. In Chapter 11 the example of the Mont Cenis training centre in Germany was cited as an ambitious use of PVs. It is a multi-use complex, principally an Academy for Further Education, a hotel, offices and a library. These are contained within a glazed envelope 180 m by 72 m and 16 m high. Of the 12 000 m2 of roof, 10 000 m2 are

Mont Cenis Academy Complex Germany

Figure 13.4

Photovoltaic cells, Jubilee Campus, Nottingham University devoted to PV cells producing more than twice the energy demand of the building (Figure 13.5).

The PV market is growing dramatically - 43.8 per cent in 2002 with most going to grid connected supply in Japan, Germany and California. This is a technology which is seen to have enormous potential and therefore is attracting considerable research effort. The Sunpower Corporation is manufacturing a solar cell which achieves an efficiency of over 20 per cent as verified by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This laboratory has also verified the bench efficiency of 36.9 per cent achieved by Spectrolab's Improved Triple Junction solar cell. Efficiencies of over 40 per cent are confidently predicted. As economies of scale also bring down costs, the impact on the electricity market could be dramatic with the potential for every home to become a micro-power station. Before these developments had occurred, Hermann Scheer calculated that Germany's aggregate demand of 500TWh/year could be met by installing PVs on 10 per cent of roofs, facades and motorway sound barriers (The Solar Economy, p. 64, Earthscan 1999).

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