In March 2021, Vitro Architectural Glass launched its first ever energy-generating product: Solarvolt™ building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) glass modules. Seamlessly integrated into the building structure, Solarvolt™ BIPV modules unveil new possibilities for renewable power generation and glass design.
Solarvolt™ BIPV modules are available with every single Vitro glass substrate and coating. The solar cells are laminated between two glass lites, then, if a low-e coating is specified, it is placed behind the cells, on the third surface of the IGU. The coating should not be placed on the first or second surface to avoid interfering with solar cell performance.
Low-iron glass will deliver the best energy generation performance, but architects will need to choose the right substrate based on aesthetic and performance needs. If fabricating an IGU, the manufacturing process will be somewhat different, mainly due to the lead wires that must come out of the unit. There are multiple ways to address this challenge, such as retrofitting the leads into existing framing systems.
The glass thickness is within the compatible range of traditional glass framing systems. Even though it’s laminated, the glass can be as thin as 6mm and up to 24mm thick. The maximum panel size is 146″ x 98″. The framing systems themselves are similar to traditional framing, except for the lead wires and the cover and gasket system.
Right now, Vitro is both the seller and manufacturer of the BIPV units themselves, specifically the laminated glass lites. Vitro then works with a mechanical installer, who prepares the framing system with the solar cells, which the glass integrates into. An installer then places them into IGUs.
Solarvolt™ BIPV will arrive as a laminated glass product, with the solar cells laminated between two pieces of PVB and two pieces of glass, forming a sandwich. There will be two electrical leads coming out of the glass. Vitro also connects a “J-box,” which will link the panels to each other.
To install them in a building, fabricators will work with a certified electrician or an electrical installer familiar with BIPV installations to install the electrical components and set up the inverter system that feeds power into the building. Lead times will be determined based on each project and will be dependent on the size of the order.
Vitro has a rigorous Quality Assurance process in place. On the production line, a flasher system that mimics the sun is used to confirm the wattage output produced by the solar cells. That output is then compared against what the panel should produce. If it doesn’t meet the performance target, the product won’t go out. Vitro works with Illumimex, a subsidiary of Vitro, to conduct these tests through their systems. There’s also a 10-year warranty — 10 years after purchase, the glass should still meet 90% of its original performance target.
For more information about Solarvolt™ BIPV modules, please visit https://www.vitrosolarvolt.com