Electrical energy can be generated from solar radiation using the photovoltaic (PV) effect. In the drive for an energetically sustainable world, PV systems provide the most promising form of sustainable energy and the only type suitable for use on large scales. Two main complementary visions exist for harnessing its potential. The first involves the construction of big, centralized PV power plants to replace conventional fossil-fuel or nuclear-power installations. The second makes commercial and residential buildings self-sufficient by means of PV modules on roofs or in façades. This decentralized and more democratic option of ‘building-integrated photovoltaics’ has grown rapidly in recent years to become a significant part of the PV market. The technology’s long-term economic viability requires that it meet the needs of both building construction and energy generation.At present, PV systems are usually mounted on the roof, requiring some small adjustments to the building structure. This is expensive, inefficient, and unsightly. It is more effective to use a PV module that can both produce solar energy and work as building element. Some steps have already been taken toward this goal by fabricating alternative roof tiles1 or shingles2 with embedded solar cells. We wanted to improve on this and integrate the two elements more fully by depositing a thin-film solar cell directly onto a conventional building element, such as a ceramic tile.
1 Jan 2009
Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (CNR-IMM), Bologna, Italy