4 July 2012 – Forget the solar panels on the roof that some people consider the ugly. The future might well be a solar system that is part of your roof, after BlueScope Steel was awarded a grant from The Australian Renewable Energy Agency Emerging Renewables Program to develop the technology.

The product, anticipated for use in residential, commercial and industrial rooftop, will counter the impact of reduced government incentives for solar energy with savage cuts in feed-in tariffs.

“Despite the potential for rooftop solar to contribute to national energy requirements, BlueScope Steel’s market research shows that widespread uptake by Australian consumers has not yet eventuated,” the company said today in a statement.

“A recent reduction in Government incentives has contributed to a drop-off in demand from the residential market, driven primarily by financial viability considerations.

BlueScope Steel considers that BIPV offers enormous advantages over conventional roof-top PV systems by reducing installation and energy costs and reducing peak energy demands placed on the grid.

Troy Coyle

“The aim of this project is to develop an integrated photovoltaic system that is reliable and affordable in the absence of Government incentives,” said Troy Coyle, manager of coated products development, BlueScope Steel Research.

“By optimising existing technologies, we believe that we can create a product that incorporates quality Australian steel, inverter technologies and leading international Generation 2 thin-film PV technologies as a cost-effective solution for consumers,” Dr Coyle said.

The system is expected to deliver cost reductions driven by improvements to PV modules, optimized roofing profiles, reduced packaging and transport, reduced building energy requirements and easy, low-cost installation, she said.

The company said it will develop prototypes delivered in two stages.

“The first stage will adapt existing thin film and balance-of-system  technologies to deliver considerable cost and performance advantages.

“Thermal system will also be developed with a view to lower costs and improve the value proposition for BIPV.

“The second stage will introduce novel organic solar technologies and incorporate low cost PV materials and manufacturing processes that will have the potential to significantly transform the roofing and walling market.”

Dr Coyle said: “A sustainable market for rooftop PV will not only contribute to national energy generation and reduced levelised cost of electricity, it will also be compatible with the grid and therefore reduce infrastructure and servicing costs. No longer will people purchase roofing, they will purchase BIPV.”

BlueScope said the potential market both in Australia and internationally is considered to be large and growing, with estimated that the global BIPV market will reach 1201 MW in 2010 with expectations that it will increase at 56 compound growth to reach a capacity of 11,392 MW in 2015.