INTERVIEW ON THE TOPIC:
Building Integration – What Does Allianz BIPV Do for the Energy Revolution?
Sebastian Lange, CEO Allianz BIPV
Hermann Issa, Senior Director Business Development & Sales, OPVIUS GmbH and Managing Director Allianz BIPV
Why BIPV (building-integrated photovoltaics)? Do we need this in addition to already established PV applications?
Sebastian Lange: “Yes, by all means. If we really want to achieve the exit from fossil fuels, we must increase solar power production significantly. On the one hand, solar systems integrated in buildings tap the enormous area available. Just think of the hitherto largely unused facades of skyscrapers and multistory buildings! On the other, the creative, aesthetic integration of the solar cells into the building envelope is the key to ensuring public acceptance on the way. Photovoltaics enjoys an enormous popularity. This is probably even the generation of energy that generally enjoys the highest acceptance. But let us imagine how our villages and towns would look like if all the roofs and facades were covered with dark blue tiles! Therefore, building integration is also a question of building tradition. Conventional PV modules perform well on flat roofs and on suitable terrains. But on the building envelope, they are usually a structural foreign body. We want to change that by paving the way for new, aesthetic solar systems.”
Hermann Issa: “It remains to be noted that building integrated PV is the only way to counteract the competitive scenario in land use. The conversion of agricultural land up to energy production is exacerbating the price development in food production worldwide for a steadily growing world population in the coming decades.An equally important issue is the decentralization of energy systems. By consistently integrating energy generation into our urban environment, we are meeting the goal of decentralizing the energy supply and thus, sustainable supply stability.
They differentiate strongly between conventional PV in existing applications and BIPV – what is the basis for this and why, for example, does a roof system not belong to the BIPV sector?
Hermann Issa:“Basically, any building-related application of renewable energy is right and important. In our understanding, BIPV applications differ from the underlying business model of existing concepts of roofing systems, as the aspects of system operation ultimately matters: A return-driven investment approach, or the desire for sustainable generation of energy and provision to a consumer. New products are needed to develop such a sustainable market for photovoltaic products in Europe. Redesigning conventional building applications such as glass facades, facade elements or sandwich panels requires combinations of the same using innovative technologies. Only this way we will regain lost market share in the important photovoltaic market and also secure jobs for the manufacturers of building products. A high degree of individualization is necessary as with almost every conventional building product today. This can only be achieved through a local supply chain. A mass product from the Far East cannot achieve this.
Sebastian Lange: “Of course, building-integrated solar systems can also be installed in the roof. However, the roofs have been mostly used to mount conventional PV modules so far. They are very rarely integrated into the actual roof, at least in Germany. This has several reasons. For example, if we look at France, things are very different. We can see significantly higher number of integrated systems there. This shows us that roof integration is certainly possible. This is feasible with modules that have been specially developed for roof integration, such as solar shingles. Alternatively, classic modules that are integrated into the roof surfaces with the help of special carrier systems can also be used.”
How do you imagine the situation in 20 years? What will the PV industry look like then?
Hermann Issa: “As noted, today’s success of photovoltaics is due to a simple business model: Return on investment. In the future, we will have to talk about “energy efficiency” and act accordingly. It does not make sense to reward production, regardless of consumption. The excesses are noticeable even now: Subsidized solar power is traded at negative prices on the power exchange, while conventional power plants are compensated at the same time to enable securing of the basic load. In the future, it will no longer be important to get as much money as possible for the generation of electricity, but achieve sustainable generation and use by stipulating legal requirements for energy efficiency or the increasing pressure from the price development of conventional energy sources such as coal, gas and oil. In the long term, the substitution of fossil fuels in the building as well as in mobility, keyword electric car will cause the electricity demand to peak. This will mean that we will need all of the building space available for energy supply – be it the facade, roof or other building parts. In 20 years, we will see photovoltaics becoming an elementary part of building envelopes. “Seeing” in this context should not refer to the visual perception. It should be the function of the photovoltaics, but not in the appearance of how the PV is today, but in a way that PV will rise in terms of shape and color in the building envelope.”
Sebastian Lange: “The PV industry will certainly look different than what it is today. PV is already associated with the lowest cost of electricity generation. New techniques and applications also add to this. Just think of the potential of organic PV. As a matter of course, PV will be much more present in the future and will penetrate many new areas, especially in the building envelope, as Mr. Issa points out. In addition to the already established PV companies, more and more companies that offer special solutions for integration will come to the fore. You could also say: More substance, but also more class!“
Mr. Lange, what can the association Allianz BIPV contribute in this regard and what are your specific goals?
Sebastian Lange: “The aim of Allianz BIPV is nothing less than to make building-integrated solar systems a matter of course. The BIPV should finally be led out of the niche segment into the broad range of applications. Allianz BIPV has already brought together many well-known companies and research institutes, which want to work together to systematically reduce existing barriers. However, this will only work if the BIPV industry gets better networked and takes a common stance. Every new technique must be backed by a strong lobby. The more credible it can speak for technology and for the industry as a whole, the more successful this lobby will be. That is why I am really pleased when we have another OPV representative in our ranks, for example, the OPVIUS. We should strive to unite all facets and varieties of BIPV in our association. Likewise, I am very pleased that we have the research and teaching faculty as well as the planners and consultants in addition to the manufacturers on board. There is still a long way to go. Anyone, interested in bringing BIPV into as many homes as possible is welcome to join us.”
Mr. Issa, why does an association with a common interest like the Allianz BIPV need it?
Hermann Issa: “Today we are facing a situation similar to that 25 years ago, when small companies that believed in the idea of photovoltaics as a key energy-producing technology led to development of a market and creation of a product that is now successfully sold and used worldwide. Today, it is the companies that are trying to fulfill an important task in the area ofenergy efficiency with new concepts and strategies. Businesses, research organizations and users need a structure that enables the exchange of information and know-how, and a platform, where the basic ideas can be shown and seen. It is particularly important for applications to be better perceived by the political players in the federal states, the federal government and Europe. Allianz BIPV offers the perfect stage to create an appropriate framework.”
A question to you in this regard, Mr. Issa. You were elected in April to the board of Allianz BIPV: Which specific goals do you want to implement in the next 2 to 3 years?
Hermann Issa: “The fundamental goal must be to build the largest possible network to bring together the many stakeholders. Likewise, it is important to establish multi-layered communication with the political representatives. Both are goals that we will be vigorously pursuing in the coming years.”
The PV industry has fully internationalized within a few years. Companies around the globe are competing with each other. Will the BIPV develop in a similar way and does it make sense to accompany this development with a relatively local association with a common interest?
Hermann Issa: “BIPV is not an interchangeable mass product that can be manufactured under the same conditions. Instead, we are talking about complex systems that have to be individually planned and built. This makes proximity to the customer necessary. For building products, approvals and approval issues and thus, knowledge about local market conditions, play an immensely important role. In addition, building products are always supplied by local companies, wherever high quality is required. In contrast, the classic, fully standardized PV modules allow production in places, where it can be most cost-effective. As a result, these are now almost exclusively produced in the Far East.
Sebastian Lange:“I totally agree. Overall, internationalization does not stop at the BIPV sector, even if it is different from the traditional PV market. We observe this phenomenon now, even within our member companies. I do not think view it too critically. Let us just take the holdings of Chinese companies in European manufacturers of BIPV components: China not only injects fresh money, it is also a gigantic market for BIPV. Moreover, there is a lot of interest in these applications right now.We just have to be careful not to miss the boat. In Asia, America and also in the Arab world, people are currently warming up to take the BIPV to a whole new level. If we do not manage to take PV building integration as a matter of course here in Europe, then others will. We, at Allianz BIPV, are working to ensure that this does not happen. In fact, our focus is still primarily on Germany. However, Allianz BIPV is deliberately not limited to Germany. We have members from five different countries and we are in talks with interested parties from other countries. Allianz BIPV is also becoming increasingly international. We are happy about every new member, irrespective of its country of origin.”
How do we stand today in international comparison?
Hermann Issa:“Rather unimpressive. Due to the meteoric rise and subsequent crash of the photovoltaic industry, all those involved in industry, politics and society are generally very cautious when it comes to photovoltaics. This is a consequence of the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act. At the time of the PV boom, we did not develop a concept that would bridge the gap to a market facing energy balancing. Likewise the formerly idle politics, large parts are still paralyzed by the shock of the decline of the German PV manufacturers and still do not recognize the elementary differences and the resulting opportunities. Development is much more advanced in many other countries in Europe, but especially outside Europe. There are a large number of countries which already directly prescribe the use of renewable energies in new construction projects. Other countries have established reward mechanisms. In both cases, it is always about the resulting energy balance of the entire structure. The question of the return on investment is no longer directly encountered here but handled in more complex contexts. In the long term, we expect the integration of renewable energy sources in buildings to become as natural as fire protection. This is also not subject to any direct assessment of the return on investment, but aims to improve the quality of life for the general public.”
What do you expect from the legislator? What challenges have to be overcome to anchor BIPV more strongly in the market?
Sebastian Lange: “Above all, it is important to create legal certainty. Often, the regulations to be observed when using the different BIPV components is not clear in practice. This is mainly due to the fact that the legislator does not always know or appreciate the special features of building-integrated PV. It must also be about giving decentralized power generation the necessary space in the building. One can also prevent the use of new techniques by over-regulation. This applies especially to energy law, but also to building law.”
Final question: From your point of view, what are the 3 most important factors for achieving a similar market potential with BIPV in the long term as with classic PV?
Hermann Issa: “First, direct inclusion of solar power in the building energy balance. Second, a revision of traditional, and sometimes obsolete, building standards and regulations. These currently make the success of innovative products difficult. And thirdly, an amendment to the Energy Industry Act and the Renewable Energy Sources Act in the field of electricity trading and grid operation.”
Sebastian Lange: “In addition to the special, tailor-made applications, we also need standardized BIPV products that are suitable for the mass market. Some of them are available even now. These products must be so easy to use that every architect can plan them and every roofer and facade builder can install them. So, simplification and transfer of know-how are needed. Nevertheless, the legal framework must also be improved. We all have to work together on that.”
Thank you for the interview!