UNSW designs Solar BIPV roofing materials that regulate building temperature

The University of New South Wales’ School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering is in the process of developing building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing materials which can also assist in regulating building temperature. The research initiative will be undertaken under the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) on Low-Carbon Living grant program, which will provide $28 million dollars over 20 years through the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

The faculty’s prototype model has already been demonstrated to be capable of consistently producing air as warm as 25 degrees through even the cold months of winter. The technology is to be integrated into roofing panels, to provide the combined, mutually-complementing benefits of thermal comfort control and electricity production. The BIPV roofing panels are to be just one in a series of similar, ‘carbon-positive’ technological developments expected to be developed under the program.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that the biggest opportunity for emissions reductions is in buildings,” said CRC head Professor Deo Prasad, of UNSW’s faculty of the Built Environment. “The built environment is responsible for 40 per cent of energy use and Australia’s homes account for 16.5 per cent of our emissions in electricity use alone, without accounting for energy embodied during the production and disposal of building materials. Unless we have carbon-positive products, it will be difficult to have carbon-positive buildings.”

The CRC Program Leader for Integrated Building Systems Associate Professor Alistair Sproul, is in the process of developing a thermally-driven air-conditioner, in the same vein as the thermal roof BIPV. “The idea is that instead of simply putting solar cells on top of regular roofs, they are integrated, so that the minute the metal roofing is installed, it starts to pay back its carbon debt by pumping power into the grid and providing warm air in the winter,” he said.

Source: UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering

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(Top image: Prof Deo Prasad and Assistant Professor Alistair Sproul of UNSW. Image via UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering)

James Martin II