With hardware and wires hidden, the underside of a well-designed solar awning is aesthetically pleasing.
Integrating typical framed PV modules into solar awning structures is becoming an increasingly popular method to combine both form and function. When properly sited, solar awnings can reduce a home’s cooling load and supply energy at the same time. Compared to standard roof mounts, awnings allow for maximum airflow along the backside of the modules, reducing cell temperature and decreasing the efficiency hit that high ambient temperatures can take on PV performance.
Standard solar modules with opaque backsheets can be used with a racking structure to create awnings, but using glass-backed modules allows some light to pass through, which can be desirable for functional and aesthetic reasons. Sanyo’s HIT Double series are “bifacial” modules, which generate electricity from both sides. Used with a reflective ground surface, they can increase energy production, Sanyo estimates, by 15% to 20% compared to standard modules. Actual energy increase from bifacial modules depends on site specifics, such as the amount of incident light reflected from the ground.
Bifacial awnings typically require a customized mounting frame to create a watertight structure, support the modules while not obscuring light transmission, and hide module wiring for better aesthetics. Several companies cater to the bifacial awning market niche, providing custom and prefabricated awning systems.
Awning structures are now one of the more common ways to integrate PV into a home. But in the commercial PV sector, many companies are offering custom BIPV glass products to architects and engineers working on high-profile projects. For example, Applied Solar provided custom-built, glass PV modules for a 172 kW canopy at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Over time, it’s likely that these commercial solutions and products will also make their way into residential BIPV installations.