Talking solar

March 20, 2007
COMMERCIAL : GREEN

Communication critical during photovoltaic installations


Read part one and part two. See next week’s issue to learn more about the cost of photovoltaics.

In the push to go green, building integrated photovoltaics have become a hot product in projects nationwide. While only a fraction of buildings feature BIPV, glass companies should be prepared for the growing solar trend.

“[BIPV] is the way of the future,” says Bernie Thueringer, president of
Pacific Glass, a contract glazing company in Renton, Wash. Pacific Glass installed the glass and BIPV on the Lillis Business Complex at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

A BIPV system presents glass industry companies with challenges unlike those in traditional buildings, requiring ample coordination between the PV supplier, framing system supplier, contract glazier and electrician. Solar design consultants also play major roles in many BIPV projects, Thueringer says.

Tom Mifflin, research and product development manager for
Wausau Window and Wall Systems of Wausau, Wis., says this coordination was critical on the BIPV at the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

“The frame and PV manufacturers have to work extremely close together to make sure sizes are identical,” Mifflin says. “All installations sequences have to be worked through with the glazier and the electrician.”

The parties also need to ensure ahead of time that the PV has received proper certification from the Underwriters Laboratories, Mifflin says. “If the modules aren’t UL recognized, the process can be extremely long—maybe six months,” Mifflin says.

One of the largest hurdles specifically for frame suppliers in a BIPV is working the wiring into a curtain-wall system, says Patrick Boucher, western regional sales manager for
Vistawall Architectural Products of Terrell, Texas. Vistawall provided the curtain wall on the Lillis Complex.

“We had to coordinate with the electrical contractor to create a way in the framing system to route wire, and do it in a way so the system still maintains integrity,” Boucher says. “We also have to always have to have access to those wires, if something goes wrong.”

The big challenge for glaziers, Thueringer says, is safely installing the hot panels alongside the electrician who connects the wires.

Learn more about the Lillis Complex in today’s GreatGlazing section of e-glass weekly. Read a July 2006 Glass Magazine article about the Tiger Woods Learning Center
here.

-By Katy Devlin, e-Newsletter Editor, e-glass weekly