This project aimed to develop low cost building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing for mass market residential and commercial applications on Australian buildings.
Changing market dynamics in the solar industry have had a significant impact on this project and BlueScope has learnt two primary lessons. Firstly, sourcing flexible thin film PV from start-up companies in a similar innovation/technology readiness stage to BlueScope’s developments has proven very challenging. The ability to influence technology development is particularly difficult when the market is still developing, volume is small and the PV manufacturer is still trying to meet their internal commercial hurdles.
Shifts in market dynamics can accelerate or change the adoption of technology, which was the case with the roof top PV market. Scale up of thin film PV manufacturing did not progress at the anticipated rate of production, nor were the expected projected cost curves or module efficiencies achieved within this project timeline. In parallel to this technology struggling to grow volume, high demand for traditional PV technologies saw rapid reductions in price and installed cost over the duration of this project.
BlueScope developed a new solar roofing technology to provide a compelling value proposition compared to conventional rooftop PV systems, with a focus on the cost-effectiveness, aesthetics and energy output.
In having a solution specifically designed for the Australian climate, BlueScope is focused on addressing consumer expectations for appropriately durable and robust PV systems, fully compatible with Australian buildings.
As one of the largest suppliers of roofing material in the world, BlueScope sought to develop BIPV to reduce the total installed cost of traditional roofing and rooftop PV, improve aesthetics, improve convenience to the building owner and enable the building supply chain to capture value and develop skills and capacity in the delivery of renewable energy.
Three prototype systems were successfully developed and installed as in market prototypes on both residential and commercial buildings. The prototypes were designed to optimise the integration of flexible thin film PV technologies and balance of system components to deliver a superior and cost effective complete system solution. As such, an evaluation of flexible thin film PV (CIGS) technology was undertaken analysing efficiency, lifespan and encapsulation to determine its suitability for rooftop BIPV. In addition to this, BlueScope evaluated and developed in-factory integration processes and designed roofing profiles to be mass production ready.
Throughout this development process, BlueScope engaged extensively with key influencers and decision makers across the building market supply chain. In addition, a range of commercial suppliers and partners supported the development of the BIPV roofing systems or contributed components and services to enable the successful installation of the 3 prototype systems. As such there have been many insights and design iterations to improve the proposed designs and their cost effective installation on Australian residential and commercial buildings.