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integrated solar

Integrated solar is the inclusion of solar power technology as a part of original construction rather than as a separate module that is added later.

Solar energy may be gathered thermally or through the use of photovoltaic cells. Integrated solar is most commonly seen in buildings, where it is sometimes referred to as building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV).

Examples of BIPV include windows and roofs with integrated solar, as well as glass awnings with built in photovoltaic cells. Glass awning installations can provide as much as 18 percent of a building’s electricity.  Now that their construction is standardised the solar awnings can be cheaper to produce than traditional awnings.

Small devices such as calculators have been available with integrated solar power for decades. Newer technologies include solar powered laptops; several manufacturers are working on solar-powered smartphones. Other applications include solar vehicles and road signs.

While integrated solar is rare in vehicles, it has been demonstrated in many solar-powered and solar-assisted prototypes. Australia’s World Solar Challenge, for example, pits competitors in an annual 3000-kilometer solar vehicle race.

See also: renewable energy, clean electricity, wind power, tidal power, geothermal energy, geothermal cooling, green data center

This was last updated in March 2014

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