Building Integrated Phototvoltaics: Colourful Onyx Solar Glass Solutions for a Sustainable Economy

The growth of solar energy and photovoltaics has spiked enormously in the past decade with forecasts predicting it will become the leading source of renewable energy globally by 2050.

Belnor Engineering Inc. is proud to present Onyx Solar as an addition to its range of product line solutions and a first in its newly established renewable energy division. Onyx Solar is a leading-edge manufacturer of Building-Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) systems, which actively and passively aim at providing clean energy on site while still providing thermal and acoustic insulation through a creative design.

By providing innovative construction materials for roofs, spandrels, canopies, façades, skylights or curtain walls, Onyx can integrate into many existing or new architectural designs and effectively produce clean energy, which can help offset operations and maintenance costs. The great advantage to these BIPV systems is the amount of design flexibility they offer. Each glass can be made to a custom thickness, colour, size and transparency, and can be installed at various orientations in order to maximize its energy production from the Sun.

Onyx also offers the glass in the form of walkable floors or furniture, such as charging desks. In addition to these advantages, the Onyx BIPV systems act as thermal and acoustic barriers as well as infrared and ultraviolet light filters. By allowing a wide range of flexibility in this way, Onyx can provide sustainable glass solutions to various projects, which have ranged from the Apple Store in San Francisco to the Dubai Frame to the Miami Heat Stadium in Miami, Florida. Even though BIPV systems are priced at a premium over traditional glass construction materials, the pay-back period is two years with an 89% savings in energy cost and 70% IRR.

Fortunately, Onyx offers a useful estimating tool which is free for download and can easily determine the energy savings on installing one of their system based on a few parameters, such as the location and orientation. By reducing the carbon footprint, providing insulation and sustainable design, Onyx’s BIPV turnkey solutions significantly contribute to a building’s LEED point standing.

The glass itself generally comes in two forms: amorphous silicon (a-si) and crystalline silicon (c-si). Both are semiconducting materials that are placed within a substrate such as glass or metal in order to form a photovoltaic solar panel, for example. Amorphous silicon is the most environmentally friendly photovoltaic material because it does not use lead or cadmium. Crystalline silicon, on the other hand, does use these toxic elements, which are present in the soldering material used to join the solar cells together, however, crystalline silicon is seen as the second-generation BIPV system and offers higher efficiency than amorphous silicon.

With headquarters in Avila, Spain, Onyx Solar has exceeded in the European market and has begun to take on the North American market with confidence by establishing a distribution channel here in Canada through Belnor Engineering Inc. By integrating into the design phase and getting the product specified by architects and engineers, Onyx can offer a renewable alternative to conventional construction materials justifiably through an analytical demonstration of direct energy savings.

The glass can also easily integrate or combine with any other construction material, making it quite versatile in the field during installation. By providing an additional energy source that can reduce a small portion of the energy demand or overhead in the building, Onyx can help fuel some of those savings into other areas that require more energy or have larger energy demands.

Onyx Solar has successfully been implemented in winning designs aboard the Solar Decathlon challenge, which aims at delivering sustainable housing solutions in a yearly competition in California. In addition, it has been recognized as the most innovative glass of 2015 by the National Glass Association, best turnkey project in 2015 during the Solar Industry International Awards in Hamburg, and has achieved the Kuwalt award for Excellence in Sustainable Energy for 2015, to name a few.

Thanks to Belnor Engineering, these sustainable, innovative, green solutions are now available in North America and offers a very creative approach to replacing existing infrastructure with more energy-efficient materials in an attempt to reach net zero in buildings. With clean energy on the rise and initiatives spiking everywhere as a result of increased awareness, Onyx Solar will be a valuable turnkey solution in construction projects around the world.

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