Building-integrated photo-voltaics: market challenges and bioinspired solutions

Nicoline F. Klysner, Torben Anker Lenau, Akhlesh Lakhtakia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


We have heavily relied for a few centuries on fossil fuels, which are basically dead plant material that was sequestered and converted millions of years ago, but the rapidly increasing energy demand combined with climatic challenges means we need to develop a large-scale supply of energy from sources without climatic impact. An obvious choice is to use solar energy directly when possible, and a complete global transition to solar energy by 2050 is realistic and cost effective.
However, in order to find space for the large areas needed for harvesting solar energy by photovoltaic means, it would be advantageous if solar panels could be incorporated into urban buildings and free land for other uses. We undertook an
analysis of the needs and requirements from the building industry that will allow for a more widespread use of solar panels on buildings, also referred to as Building Integrated Photo-Voltaics. Specifications and options for the visual incorporation of the solar panels in the building envelope were identified. Special attention was paid to (i) the role of modularization and standardization in architecture and (ii) the role of color and reflectance. A standardized mounting system is proposed that will allow for modular attachment of solar panels, making it easy to adjust, repair, and replace individual panels. Biological inspiration can be used to improve the system further. The forced-air ventilation of the tunnels of prairie dogs shows how to enhance cooling. The non-iridescent wings of butterflies of the Morpho genus, proposes how a low-cost structurally colored film can be inserted into the solar panel during its assembly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBioinspiration, Biomimetics, and Bioreplication XI : Proceedings of SPIE
EditorsAkhlesh Lakhtakia, Mato Knez, Raúl J. Martín-Palma
Number of pages17
PublisherSPIE - International Society for Optical Engineering
Publication date2021
Article number115860C
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventSPIE Smart Structures + Nondestructive Evaluation - Online event
Duration: 22 Mar 202127 Mar 2021


ConferenceSPIE Smart Structures + Nondestructive Evaluation
LocationOnline event


  • Aesthetics
  • Biologically inspired design
  • Photovoltaics
  • Solar cells
  • Urban use

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