Largely considered an environmental “extra” and a way to upgrade green building ratings, new research from Abu Dhabi suggests that building integrated photovoltaics are not just a green luxury item. The recent Middle East-based study found that governments and builders might consider the expense of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) because in hot, sunny regions like the United Arab Emirates, these solar panels can slash energy costs by as much as 33 percent!
And while we root for local companies and suppliers, the best companies up for the challenge of lining the roofs, and sides of buildings with BIPV are companies from Europe, who have experience not only in choosy LEED-loving locations like London, but also with new clients in the Middle East.
The Austrian company ertex solartechnik is one of them. Dieter Moor, the CEO of ertex told Green Prophet (he is pictured below) that they recently completed a BIPV installation in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. The company installed 1030 efficient PV modules with an installed output of 149 kWp for the Sheik Zayad Learning Center at the Al Ain Zoo. The BIPV panels installed on the roof can be seen in the top image.
Dieter Moor walking “on” the roof of the Sheik Zayed Learning Center, inspecting the progress of the installation.
Moor tells us that the heat, the shape of the building and the immense amount of dust on the roof of this structure were challenges for his company to overcome when working with a Middle East client.
Of course creating a solution that needs to be shipped afar was also a challenge, but through working with a colleague who spoke the language and knows the culture, some of the obvious cultural barriers were overcome.
The project now complete and soon to be open to the public involved the redevelopment of the 40-year old Al Ain Zoo. The centre will be an exhibition and exploration of the natural and cultural history of the Arabian deserts, as well as deserts worldwide.
Knowing that dust cleaners would need to be a regular part of panel maintenance (cleaners would need to physically walk on them – could they employ monkeys to the job?), ertex custom-made panels with two layers of special tempered 2 mm glass, and strong enough to withstand 400 kilograms of weight –– which they tested in a lab using “human” boots.
As for the shape, non-functioning panels were put in places where part panels needed to be used.
Thanks in part to the ertex solution the Sheik Zayad building was recently awarded the Five Pearl Rating, the highest of the Estidama Pearl Rating System.
The Estidama system is the LEED for Gulf region countries.
Moor says that, “This building evaluation system is in principle comparable with the Austrian ÖGNI or German DGNB System and refers to the sustainability of the property.
Working with the company Enviromena, ertex had to work around a solution for a complicated building: “Everything was rounded,” Moor says, eventually finding a way to make rectangular panels fit into the undulating curves of the roof.
“Full coverage of the surface of the extraordinary building shape was possible and for architectural reasons, 121 special modules with a combined surface area of 1,140m² were manufactured. Due to the net energy production of circa 239,000kWh through the photovoltaic panels, the high sustainability rating can be maintained in the long run,” he tells us.
Surprise, surprise: lots of radiant sun isn’t always a bonus for BIPV: “High temperatures can have a negative effect on the solar cell semiconductors, making them less efficient,” Moor says.
So far ertex has clients around the globe from the UK (The Peak below was one of their projects), the US, Sudan and Turkmenistan to name a few. Their recently completed project in Abu Dhabi shows that they are ready to open their business doors to more Gulf countries looking to Estidama practices, and joining the global trend of environmental sustainability in buildings.
ertex installs BIPV at The Peak in London. Even odd-shaped PV panels were built to collect power.
When price is no limit, why not?
ertex installs about 1.1 MW of energy per year, and while “most of our customers don’t care about the return on investment, it´s more a discussion about esthetically integration of PV,” says Moor, money put in on energy saved can be about 20 years.
Efficiency and electricity drops over time, so this is obviously an estimate, Moor, a married father of three, adds.