Solar Windows and Solar Buildings: Understanding Building Integrated Photovoltaic Systems

Semi-transparent solar cells are a relatively new solar technology that allow light to partially pass through the panels while also delivering light-to-electricity conversion. The possibilities offered by semi-transparent solar panels include their integration as skylights and windows of buildings, referred to generally as building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV). The semi-transparent characteristics of BIPV technology also has the potential to improve the efficiency (conversion rates) for the photovoltaics themselves.

Building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems

Crystalline silicon-based modules are presently used for making building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs). But due to the opaque nature of silicon, other photovoltaic candidates with the potential to be made truly semi-transparent are quickly gaining attention.

These include kesterite-, amorphous silicon-, chalcopyrite-, cadmium telluride- (CdTe-), organic-, dye-sensitized-, and perovskite-based systems. Of these, amorphous silicon-systems have been extensively researched in the semi-transparent solar cell field, because of their low-temperature fabrication processes.

Lately, researchers are showing interest in alternative systems like perovskites as well as their inorganic counterparts, owing to the greater efficiency gains that these systems have exhibited. The main challenges with these alternative chemistries for photovoltaics are the instability or degradation of the materials over time, compared to the leading silicon-based solar cells.

In the context of BIPV, these systems present a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Let’s examine those.

Challenges of Transparent Solar Technologies

Two key challenges faced by researchers of transparent solar technologies are the limited efficiency of transparent solar panels and their tendency to change colors of the light that enters them.

Several experiments have been performed to repurpose conventional solar cells for use on glass. However, it is difficult to achieve the kind of transparency that is necessary for this type of use with conventional solar cells.

Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrator

Professor Richard Lunt at Michigan State University decided to take a different approach than conventional solar cells. He made the concentrator using thin-film with organic materials that can be placed on any flat, clear surface. It is capable of harvesting energy from ultraviolet and near infrared wavelengths, which are invisible to the eye. The visible spectrum of light passes through the concentrator unhindered thus achieving a high level of transparency.

This was developed and named by researchers at Michigan State University in 2017. The concentrator looks like normal glass and is capable of providing clean electricity with minimal impact on the building aesthetics.

“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” said Richard Lunt, the associate professor who was heading the research team at MSU.

ImagePhoto Credit: Michigan State University (https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/transparent-solar-technology-represents-wave-of-the-future/)

Thin-Film PV Technology

Thin-film PV technology is being used to develop BIPV photovoltaic solar glass to harness electricity production and visible light transmission. The thin-films used for making BIPV systems can be transparent or opaque. For this reason, thin-film BIPV systems are increasingly being sought for a wide range of purposes, including:

  • Solar greenhouses
  • Facades
  • Canopies
  • Skylights
  • Curtain walls
  • Electric vehicles
  • Electronic displays

Thin-film offers the following advantages compared to traditional silicon modules:

Efficiency at poor angles

Thin-film solar remains efficient even when it isn’t optimally positioned to receive direct sunlight. This allows thin-film solar to be used in unconventional ways, for instance, vertically on buildings.

Performance in low lighting

Thin-film solar needs as little as 10% sunlight to operate. This translates into increased annual electricity production as well as a more consistent energy yield.

Comparable costs

The installation costs for thin-film solar cells are nearly the same as their traditional alternatives.

Robust panels

Thin-film solar panels are rigid and tough. They use laminated glass to increase their overall functionality, which is highly resistant to weather damage.

Increased heat resistance

Thin-film solar has higher tolerance for heat. You don’t need to ventilate them to achieve optimal efficiency.

Wavelength-Selective vs Non-Wavelength-Selective Semi-Transparent Photovoltaic Technologies

Semi-transparent photovoltaic technologies can be grouped into wavelength-selective and non-wavelength-selective variants depending on how they absorb sunlight.

Non-wavelength-selective systems generate electricity through the absorption of a broad spectrum of solar rays, including the visible spectrum of photons. At the same time, they’re also able to transmit light through the segmented placement of opaque solar cells. In some cases, the transmission of visible light is achieved via the use of thin photoactive materials. Non-wavelength-selective systems include amorphous silicon-, chalcopyrite-, kesterite- and cadmium telluride-based systems.

Wavelength-selective transparent & semi-transparent solar panels use photoactive materials that harvest near-infrared (NIR) or ultraviolet (UV) light preferentially while emitting the visible spectrum of light. These solar cells convert the NIR and UV light into electricity while allowing the visible spectrum of light through, which can be used for illuminating any space, including greenhouses with plants requiring certain light wavelengths for growth.

The Future of Transparent and Semi-Transparent Solar

Transparent and semi-transparent solar panels are a new and exciting form of solar technology that delivers solar energy from a material that resembles clear glass. This type of solar is a work in progress. Research is underway to further refine these technologies and increase their efficiency rating.

When transparent solar glass is placed on conventional glass, the two become indistinguishable. The widespread adoption of these systems is being considered in windows and ceilings of buildings as well as automobiles and electronic device displays.

If you would like to discuss the integration of semi-transparent solar panels to your next innovative building project, get in touch with Dandelion Renewables, the solar contractors for numerous Canadian communities, farms & businesses. Contact Dandelion Renewables today.

The Village Of Ryley’s Solar Project Is An Inspiration For Others

There are always those early adopters who lead the way when it comes to embracing change. Going solar is no different. Using conventional power sources, electricity costs for the Village of Ryley would run as high as $14,000 a year, plus an additional $5,000 in distribution and service charges.

The village council sought a solar power solution that would enable them to achieve net-zero. A site to the east of the lagoon has been earmarked for the project. The project aims to generate sufficient power using solar power as a renewable energy resource to offset their annual electricity consumption.

Quality renewables consultants can be hard to find

There are several issues authorities like a village or town council may face when embarking on such projects. Renewable energy technologies are an advanced field with a steep learning curve. The most cost-effective solutions often embrace the latest innovative technologies and methods, which is one of the areas where Dandelion Renewables provides excellent value for customers. Some solar contractors have yet to hear about the technologies that Dandelion Renewables offers.

Keeping pace with the tremendous amount of research taking place in solar, wind and renewables is equally if not more complicated. For this reason, a renewables consultant that can walk you through your options, recommend the best courses of action, and still remain a cost leader, is a rare gem that can be hard to find.

When Ryley council met on December 17, 2019 and decided to acquire the solar power system, they were faced with a similar situation. The council had been investigating the solar initiative since 2018. It received proposals from Dandelion Renewables and other solar contractors. Dandelion won the bid.

It was a fairly simple decision. During bid review, the council noted that the other solar contractor’s proposal was significantly higher at $341k minus $119k of solar rebate for a cost of nearly $222k. Dandelion Renewables offered a solution that met Ryley’s goals for a total cost of $249k minus $107k of solar rebate for a cost of $132k ( 40% lower cost ! ). After adding the fence and transformer cost, the total cost of the project is $175k.

The village council also noted that, “Aside from being more economical, the advice, guidance and recommendations provided from Dandelion have been significantly more accurate and useful than those from the other solar contractor.”

Another notable fact of the project is that it uses land that is not desirable for other developments. The initiative shown by the Village of Ryley is likely to energize a plethora of related solar ideas and project potential that could contribute to the local economy for years to come.

The project is estimated to be completed in the last half of 2020.

If you are looking for an experienced renewable energy consultant who can help your community successfully achieve net-zero solutions using the most cost-saving innovative technologies and methods, then you’ve come to the right place. At Dandelion Renewables, we’re committed to offering residential, commercial, industrial, utility, and farm-specific solutions for solar power and other sustainable energy-efficient endeavors. Contact Dandelion Renewables today.

The Town Of Viking Takes Advantage of the Alberta Municipal Solar Program

What is the AMSP?

The Alberta Municipal Solar Program (AMSP) facilitates Albertan municipalities in the installation of micro-generation solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on lands and facilities administered by the municipality.

According to the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC) website, municipalities can avail the AMSP to get rebates of up to 30% of the total solar power project expenses. Under this program, a municipality can apply for rebates of up to $1.5 million.

To incentivize municipalities to participate in the program, there is a first-time applicant bonus rebate of $0.25/watt offered to the municipalities that haven’t used the AMSP funding so far. The bonus is capped at a maximum amount of $250,000.

Rural municipalities like Viking are taking advantage of the solar program and showcasing its benefits to the rest of the community.

The project, which will be completed in a few months, involves the installation of 2,880 ground-mounted solar modules with a capacity of 1.05MW; that size solar PV system can produce enough annual electricity for 215 households.

Six acres of swampy prairie land to the east of Viking has been earmarked for the solar power plant.

AMSP

Other municipalities are also joining Viking

Viking isn’t the only municipality that has decided to meet a notable chunk of its energy demands through renewable sources.

Prior to this, the town of Raymond, which has strong Japanese and Mormon community roots and enjoys the best solar resource in the province, has also embarked on an ambitious solar power project. After hearing the benefits of the Alberta Municipal Solar Program, the town’s council decided to install 2,983 modules with a net capacity of 1.16 MW.

Municipalities are expected to play a crucial role in achieving the province’s goal of meeting 30% of its energy needs from renewables by 2030. In fact, more than 62 municipalities have already availed the AMSP for a net installation of 16,318 solar PV modules with a capacity of 6.1MW, according to data found on the MCCAC website. These figures are subject to change as more municipalities join the program.

The MCCAC is a partnership between the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, and the Government of Alberta.

Benefits of the AMSP

Besides municipalities, non-profit community-related organizations can also join the AMSP program if their project is based on land or facility owned by a municipality.

The AMSP funded solar projects lead to new job openings, reduce the emission of harmful gases and save communities thousands of dollars annually on power bills.

Small- and Community-Scale Renewable Power Generation in Alberta

This is not the only solar opportunity offered by the province of Alberta. There are other fundings and grants offered by the province as well as different cities throughout the province of Alberta. For instance, the city of Edmonton offers the EcoCity Grant and the Residential PV Incentive program. The latter targets residential rooftop solar PV installation.

By introducing solar PV programs for individuals, businesses, and communities, the government of Alberta is enabling Albertans to participate directly in solar power generation.

How to Choose a Solar Contractor?

Choosing a reliable solar contractor is one of the biggest challenges faced by municipalities looking to achieve net-zero. The Alberta Solar Providers Directory and the CanSIA Member Directory offer a comprehensive list of solar providers in Alberta.

Shortlist some vendors and discuss your solar requirements with them. At the same time, inquire about the vendor’s experience in installing solar PV systems.

Inquire about their experience. How long have they been around? Do they have the required solar PV installation certification? How many solar PV systems have they successfully installed?

You should also ask for 4 to 5 references from the companies you’re considering.

If everything looks good, request a complete proposal from the top vendors. Compare their proposals and award the contract to the winning bidder.

If you would like to request a free quote for the installation of a ground-mounted solar PV system, get in touch with Dandelion Renewables, the solar consultants for Viking and many other Albertan municipalities. Contact Dandelion Renewables now.

The Town of Viking Shoots for Net-Zero on Municipal Buildings

Another Alberta town takes advantage of the funding provided through the Alberta Municipal Solar Program. The Town of Viking, Alberta, is aiming to produce a majority of its municipal electrical needs using solar energy. Following the Town of Raymond, Viking will become the second municipality in Alberta to be net-zero.

Viking town council initially considered solar photovoltaic systems on multiple sites but ultimately decided on one large ground-mounted solar PV system. By consolidating the project into one location, the town will receive greater benefit from the solar funding program.

Our team at Dandelion Renewables is well into the installation phase of the ground-mounted project, covering almost six acres of swampy prairie land. The transformation of a once boggy grazing field into a renewable energy solar power plant, just east of Viking, is projected to be completed this coming spring of 2020.

A total of 2880 ground-mounted solar modules will provide the town with 1.05MW of power. That is enough energy to power 215 average Albertan households year-round!

Stay tuned for progress pictures and updates over the next weeks and months!

Dandelion Renewables is in the 5th Annual Indigenous Green Energy Forum-2019

Edmonton, Alberta, 20/11/2019 — Dandelion Renewables participated in the 5th Annual Indigenous Green Energy Forum at the River Cree Resort and Casino Event Centre, Enoch Cree Nation, Treaty No.6 on November 20th, 2019. The forum brought together Indigenous Leaders, Investors, and experts in Renewable Energy to demonstrate experience and accomplishments towards sharing best practices for Indigenous communities.
Photo: Pipe Ceremony of 5th Annual Indigenous Green Energy Forum-2019 in Edmonton, Alberta About First Nations Power Authority: First Nation Power Authority (FNPA) is the only North-American non-profit Indigenous owned and controlled organization developing power projects with Indigenous communities. FNPA bridges the gaps between industry, government, and Indigenous communities to evaluate and develop Indigenous-owned power generation projects. 5th Annual Indigenous Green Energy Forum Agenda-2019

Farm Energy-efficiency FAQs

Question: Who is authorized to conduct a farm-specific energy-efficiency audit? Answer: The engineering professionals with the technical skills to conduct energy audits and who have experience with farms. Additionally, you can look at Dandelion Renewables Energy-Efficiency case studies, the Agricultural Energy-Efficiency analytical review and financing programs in 2019 for increasing irrigation systems efficiency. Question: What information is required for an energy-efficiency audit? Answer:
  • Bills (Power, Nat Gas, Propane, Diesel, Gasoline);
  • Facility tour of equipment;
  • Operations review;
Question: What is the process of an energy-efficiency audit? Answer: The process includes the following steps:
  1. Measure energy consumption of different equipment.
  2. Identify the most energy-efficient equipment and practices among those producers.
  3. Make farm-specific recommendations for energy efficiency improvements.
Question: What is included in the farm-specific energy-efficiency report? Answer: The report includes recommendations for the most cost-effective opportunities available for the farm to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy costs, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy consumption. Question: Which farm equipment have the best opportunities to reduce energy consumption and costs? Answer: The major equipment categories vary and depend on the facility type and equipment usage. For example, in commercial beekeeping, we have identified following equipment categories or systems (in order of highest to the lowest potential for annual cost savings per hive):
  1. Vehicles
  2. Heat Trace
  3. Wax Melting
  4. Space Heating
  5. Honey Heating
  6. Lighting
  7. Indoor Overwintering Fans
  8. Pressure Washer Heating
  9. Appliances
  10. Circulator
Question: What are the general parameters of energy-efficiency? Answer: General parameters of energy-efficiency include:
  1. Annual Fuel Savings (MMBtu)
  2. Annual Electricity Savings (kWh)
  3. Annual Cost Savings
  4. Cost of Upgrades
  5. Payback (years)
  6. Internal Rate of Return on Investment (IRR)
Question: How can farmers reduce their energy costs or energy consumption? Answer: For example, for the Vehicles category considering savings options might include (not complete list):
  1. Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Improvement
  2. Renewable Diesel for Existing Diesel Trucks to Reduce GHG Emissions
  3. Hybrid-Electric Diesel Trucks and Electric Trucks

Change Homes for Climate – Edmonton Solar Program

While the province of Alberta rolls back on the climate action measures and withdraws the incentives for renewable energy programs, the City of Edmonton has announced its CHANGE HOMES FOR CLIMATE – SOLAR PROGRAM. The City is offering Edmontonians $0.40/watt towards the cost of the system, which is roughly 15% of the cost of going solar! 

Edmonton is one of the sunniest cities in Canada with 2,300 hours of sun in an average year. This provides great potential to shift the paradigm. The program is now opening up exciting opportunities for locals to take actions into their own hands. 

Who is eligible?

  • Anyone in the City of Edmonton who is planning to build a grid-connected solar system 
  • The solar system must be designed and installed by a qualified installer

How much is covered by the city program?

  • $0.40/W based on the total system capacity
  • A maximum of 40% of eligible system costs
  • Up to a maximum of $4,000

What is covered?

  • Solar PV equipment such as solar panels, racking, inverters, cabling, etc… 
  • Design, development, modelling and engineering
  • Permitting fees
  • Fees to upgrade the transmission and distribution system, if necessary

What is not covered?

  • items like GST and administrative costs
  • operation and maintenance
  • projects located on temporary structures
  • off-grid PV solar systems
  • self-installed solar projects
  • solar thermal projects

How can I participate?

Contact Dandelion Renewables so we can model, estimate and start the application process on your behalf.

If you have any further question, feel free to contact our office

Federal Carbon Tax to be Returned to Schools for Energy Efficiency programs

On June 25th, 2019, the Federal Government announced its new plan of action for carbon taxes. In the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick, due to the lack of a provincial carbon tax, the Federal Government has imposed its own carbon tax. Of the new federal carbon tax funds collected, $60million will be distributed to schools in 2019/20 in these provinces. 
Although Alberta was not originally in the list of provinces, due to the passing of the provincial government legislation to remove carbon tax, Alberta will also be added to the list of the abovementioned  provinces in January 2020. 
The $60 million granted to schools will be done so, to support projects that incentivize energy efficiency programs focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This means, government sectors such as public schools will have the opportunity to implement energy efficiency systems in their buildings. 
The funding will also cover anything related to improving the amount of energy consumed. Things like led lights, energy efficiency windows, heating, and cooling systems. With this initiative, we will see a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emission and an increase in solar systems installed in schools throughout Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Ontario. 
After all, what better way to teach future generations about caring for the environment than providing programs that allow them to learn first hand how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

NDP vs. UCP for Solar in Alberta

With Rachel Notley’s NDP announcing the provincial election for April 16, 2019, many are speculating what will happen to the renewable energy industry. There is a looming fear that what happened in Ontario will be mirrored in Alberta if the UCP is voted in. The Ontario liberals introduced the Green Energy Act in 2009 and the conservatives scrapped that program after canceling 758 renewable energy contracts earlier last summer. The idea is that it will reduce electricity prices and provide more choice to municipalities as to what projects are installed. Naturally, we are hoping the same does not happen in Alberta, but whether the next government is the United Conservative Party or the New Democratic Party, we have reason to believe both solar and wind are here to stay.   First, the renewable energy industry has a lot of steam in Alberta as we’ve seen significant investment in the last decade. Alberta is currently at 10% renewable energy and the province has been shooting for 30% by 2030 for the past 4 years. This has created a lot of momentum in the renewable energy economy and it is seen in the many organizations training people to work in renewable energy such as Iron and Earth, the Lethbridge College wind technician program, SAIT’s solar installation and the NAIT Alternative Energy Program which has a 93% employment rate upon graduation. Alberta now has thousands of Albertans trained to work in a more sustainable, less volatile industry and, just as the government currently has to listen to unemployed oil workers, a hit to the renewable energy industry would result in thousands of job losses. Whether it’s the UCP, NDP or any of the others that get in for the next election, there is now a significant portion of the population that is personally invested in a future for the renewable energy industry and the new provincial government will have to consider these people.   Second, Alberta has set records for the lowest renewable energy prices in Canada for both wind and solar. Last year, round one of the renewable electricity program had a weighted average of 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for wind and just a month ago the Alberta government signed a contract to purchase 55% of their electricity from solar for a price of 4.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. In 2018, the wholesale price for electricity was 5.0 cents per kilowatt-hour and Ontario’s lowest renewable energy procurement price in 2016 was 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Clearly, renewable energy is becoming the most cost-competitive option in Alberta and, although residential and municipal programs are subsidized by the revenue-neutral carbon tax, the utility-scale investments are not dependant on government involvement and are simply good economics.   Garnet Borch, E.I.T