x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Solar panels a window to power cost savings, UAE study finds

Office buildings can reduce energy costs by up to 33.5 per cent if transparent solar panels are installed on windows, a study has found.

DUBAI // Office buildings can reduce energy costs by up to 33.5 per cent if transparent solar panels are installed on windows, a study has found.

The panels, known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), generate energy and double as glazing and tinting to improve energy efficiency.

"When I started the study I thought that BIPV could be better, but I was surprised at actually how much better it was," said Mohammad Katanbaf, an architect at KEO International Consultants Abu Dhabi, who published his findings in the January edition of the journal Engineering.

The high cost of BIPV has meant few companies are willing to install them, but Mr Katanbaf's findings may encourage more developers to seriously consider the panels.

The architect's study was carried out through complex computer modelling to simulate the exact environmental conditions in the capital.

Karel de Winter, UAE division manager of Alsa Solar Systems, said building-integrated solar cells were extremely rare in the Emirates.

"If it was here, you would find it only in trophy projects and then only if the architect can be persuaded to put it in," Mr de Winter said.

He said it was difficult to calculate a price but BIPV cells were generally about 30 per cent more expensive than normal solar panels.

"The cost of energy is cheap to begin within, that's why not many people go for renewables," said Mr Katanbaf.

In some countries the rise of BIVP has been driven by incentives such as feed-in tariffs, where utility companies buy energy from the owners of solar cells to supply to the national grid.

Last year, Saeed Al Tayer, chief executive of Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority), said consultants had been appointed to examine whether such a scheme was feasible in Dubai.

The results of that study have not been announced.

Daniel Pedroso, regional manager of BIPV maker Isofoton, said BIPV would not work in the Emirates without some form of incentive.

"Regular solar modules are still considered expensive compared to normal energy costs," Mr Pedroso said. "However, BIPV is even more expensive than that because it's customised for each building.

"There's interest in BIPV, which is not the same as demand. The only way it will grow is if there are incentives to act as a driver."

mcroucher@thenational.ae