Monday, April 26, 2010

Here comes the sun!

It seems like solar power is everywhere these days. With a lot of new competitors and the growing interest in green building, interest will continue to rise. An article in this week’s Economist weighed in, comparing solar power to the adolescent stage of a child’s development --- no longer fresh, new, and full of promise, but still a ways off from making a full contribution to society. The chief reason for framing the issue this way is, of course, cost. The article notes that the price of panels is falling just low enough to hurt manufacturers, but it’s not yet low enough to be a competitive source of energy.

The analysis is on target in many ways, but it left out an important aspect in solar’s growth --- Building Integrated Photovoltaics. Last month, consultant Steven Coonen did a webinar where he talked about the possibilities this technology offers. While the cost is higher than the standard glass normally used on projects, it’s a lot lower than it used to be and the range of projects where it can be used has increased in recent years. Is every building going to start including BIPV? Of course not. But a lot will. More than you, or the Economist, might think.

As Steve points out, the beauty of the product is that it can be part of the normal glazing supply chain. The major manufacturers, including Guardian and Schott, produce it, and it can be installed with techniques not much different than standard glazing. More product is coming into the market every day, especially from overseas. And more architects are starting to design with it.

If you missed it, you can catch the webinar recording on And as interest in this topic continues to grow, the NGA is hosting a seminar at this year’s GlassBuild America. If you’re a glazier looking to start using this technology, you’ll want to be there

Matt Rumbaugh
Sr. Manager of Education, Training, and Certification
National Glass Association

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