More sustainable solar

Brazilian firm brings organic photovoltaics to buildings and trucks.

It’s 2021, awareness of the climate crisis has never been higher, renewable energy is booming and yet our buildings are still not covered in power generating photovoltaics.

The global Building Integrated Photovoltaics market (BIPV) today is estimated at USD 7 billion but is expected to reach USD 39.9 billion in 2027. In Latin America, the market is expected to grow by nearly 20 per cent per annum for the foreseeable future.

Traditional silicon solar panels have many drawbacks when it comes to use on buildings: they are heavy, opaque, need to be directed towards the sun and require a heavy-duty industrial production process with a significant carbon footprint.

Organic photovoltaics (OPV) could be set to revolutionise the BIPV market. These thin-film photovoltaics are made by printing an organic earth-abundant ink onto lightweight, flexible, semi-transparent and recyclable plastic rolls which can then be tailored according to customer specifications. Furthermore, the films reject unwanted heat, saving energy and cost on air conditioning in the summer.

With such properties, OPV could be used to generate power on any surface and any scale, from smart building windows to trucks and even outdoor furniture.

The President of a Brazilian producer of OPV systems explained the benefits of their solution, “Silicon PV is toxic and fragile, which makes integration with buildings and transport difficult. Additionally, the production of silicon PV has a sizeable carbon footprint. Our organic PV materials do not have any toxic components, can be mass manufactured in roll-to-roll production and are easy to integrate on buildings, on trucks or any outdoor environment. The OPV gathers the light, turns into energy, and blocks the heat and for a real estate portfolio manager this can have a huge impact because those percentages make a big difference.”

“Silicon PV is toxic and fragile […] Our organic PV materials do not have any toxic components, can be mass manufactured in roll-to-roll production and are easy to integrate.”

President, producer of organic photovoltaic systems, Brazil

Real estate in Europe and the US is under increasing pressure to decarbonise and this could present a viable solution, the President continues, “We have a large footprint in Brazil but we recently made our first installation in New York City. Regulation in the US is forcing building owners to take environmental considerations more seriously. Once you adopt OPV there is no way back and I think there is no way back for the US market.”

“Regulation in the US is forcing building owners to take environmental considerations more seriously.”

President, producer of organic photovoltaic systems, Brazil

In addition to BIPV, the Brazilian company is also targeting trucks, where silicon PV suffers from broken glass, poor performance under constant motion and structural weight. A trial with PepsiCo has shown that truck-mounted OPV can increase truck availability, increase battery lifetime and reduce overall maintenance costs. In addition, OPV’s can be applied to the sides of the trucks, increasing available surface area by 200%.

It’s about time we did something meaningful to decarbonise our buildings, perhaps this Brazilian firm has the answer!


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