Hassan Gholami during his doctoral dissertation on Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) at the University of Stavanger | Photo Kjersti Riiber

Building-integrated solar cells can provide zero-energy cities

Using solar PV systems as a building envelope material, so-called building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) in facades and roofs is profitable. BIPV could also play a key role in creating zero energy or nearly zero energy cities in the EU, according to a new doctoral dissertation from Hassan Gholami.

15. November 2021

Gholami works at Multiconsult and defended his PhD dissertation on Monday 1 November at the University of Stavanger. He presented his doctoral dissertation “Feasibility Study of Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) as a Building Envelope Material in Europe”. Hassan Gholami is one of two in Norway with a doctorate in building-integrated solar cell systems.

Profitable in Europe and Norway

In his PhD project, Hassan Gholami has assessed the economic and technological aspects of using BIPV as building envelope materials in facades and roofs. At the same time, he has investigated the BIPV system’s potential for urban planners and architects.

– My findings show how this technology now is profitable and can be used in most areas in the EU. Thus, BIPV technology can contribute significantly to achieving nearly zero energy cities, where the cities become energy self-sufficient, says Hassan Gholami.

At the same time, Hassan Gholami has also conducted a comprehensive study to identify the challenge in the BIPV market.

– The main challenge is lack of awareness or public understanding. Among other things, there is a perception that it takes a long time for the system to return the investment. The end-user often only look at the total investment itself and not the dual functionality of the system, which is the role as a building envelope material and the role as a powerplant. In addition, there is a general lack of financial and legal support for the system.

He, therefore, proposes various measures, such as affordable and demand-based subsidy schemes.

– BIPV, for its building envelope role, should be regarded as its alternatives such as glass, stone, brick, wood, etc. It means that only the cost corresponding to its energy supplying role should be considered for the financial analysis and economic feasibility study. This is because the payback time for other façade solutions such as glass or stone façade is endless, explains Gholami, who believes it shows that the technology is economically feasible and that the architectural challenges are almost all solvable.

– BIPV also addresses the critics of exploited land use for solar power plants or wind farms by being implemented on the building skins. Moreover, although some issues such as shading in urban areas would jeopardize the production of solar systems, a portion of this decline can be recouped by the reflection.

Central competence

Gholami started in Multiconsult on 1 September 2021. Ryan Glenn Anderson, Head of Solar Energy at Multiconsult is very pleased to have strengthened the expertise in renewable energy in general and solar energy in particular with the employment.

– Hassan’s expertise is unique in Norway, and we are very happy to have him as part of our solar energy environment. He will also make a strong contribution to strengthening the interdisciplinary expertise we have in energy systems in buildings, says Ryan Glenn Anderson.