Foster’s Solar-Skinned Buildings Signal Market Tripling: Energy

From stadiums in Brazil to a bank headquarters in Britain, architects led by Norman Foster are integrating solar cells into the skin of buildings, helping the market for the technology triple within two years.

Sun-powered systems will top the stadia hosting 2014 FIFA World Cup football in Brazil. In Manchester, northern England, the Co-operative Group Ltd. office has cells from Solar Century Holdings Ltd. clad into its vertical surfaces.

The projects mark an effort by designers to adopt building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV, where the power-generating features are planned from the start instead of tacked on as an afterthought. Foster and his customers are seeking to produce eye-catching works while meeting a European Union directive that new buildings should produce next to zero emissions after 2020.

“Building integrated solar in office buildings and factories which generate energy consistently during daylight hours, whilst not requiring additional expensive land space or unsightly installations, is seen as the most obvious energy solution,” said Gavin Rezos, principal of Viaticus Capital Ltd., an Australian corporate advisory company that’s one of theprivate equity funds putting money into the technology.

Growing Market

The market for solar laid onto buildings and into building materials is expected to grow to $7.5 billion by 2015 from about $2.1 billion, according to Accenture Plc, citing research from NanoMarkets. Sales of solar glass are expected to reach as much as $4.2 billion by 2015, with walls integrating solar cells at $830 million. About $1.5 billion is expected to be generated from solar tiles and shingles.

The technology provides a respite for solar manufacturers, opening the way for them to charge a premium for products. Traditional solar panel prices have fallen 90 percent since 2008 due to oversupply, cutting margins and pushing more than 30 companies including Q-Cells SE and a unit of Suntech Power Holdings Co. into bankruptcy.

The industry is already well established in the U.S., whereDow Chemical Co. (DOW), the country’s largest chemical maker by sales, is selling in more than a dozen states solar shingles that look like regular roofing material.

BASF SE (BAS) also is developing products for the market. The Santa Clara football stadium near San Francisco will have three solar-array covered bridges, with a solar canopy built over a roof terrace, generating their own power.

‘Tipping Point’

“We’re approaching a tipping point and at some point in the future building integrated solar would be a must-have in the design of any new and significant building,” said Mike Russell, managing director of Accenture’s utilities group in London.

Solar technology has been installed onto the roof of the Pituacu Stadium in Brazil, as well as its locker room and parking canopies, as the nation prepares for the World Cup.

Viaticus has invested in Dyesol Ltd. (DYE), which makes dyes that mimic how plant leaves turn sunlight into energy. The dyes increase the efficiency of solar cells and provide a product that’s “highly desirable for all buildings, both new and refurbished,” said Rezos.

Dyesol is working with Tata Steel Ltd. (TATA) on ways of incorporating its technology into steel roofing products for industrial warehouses, said Richard Caldwell, its executive chairman. Pilkington Group Ltd., a glass maker, plans to integrate the technology into windows forming the sides of buildings, he said.


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