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8 responses to “Chicago Window Expert Goes Solar” RSS icon

  • Is it popular to use BIPV in western USA now?

    • Building integrated PV systems appear to have gained acceptance and usage along the West coast, including the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and in pockets along the East coast, particularly New Jersey and Virginia. Here in Chicago, we lag behind (but not for long).

      The great majority involve simple integrations, such as adding PV or solar thermal panels to the roof. These solutions are relatively easy, and lend themselves to retrofit, a good thing when new construction is slow.

      There are fancier applications which occur, but less frequently due to their complexity and possibly better application to new construction. These involve adding PV or radiant capabilities to the window or skylight glass. We will be exploring these areas in upcoming articles.

      Aside from cost, which is sure to come down, we think the biggest impediment to more elegant integrations is the lack of people who know how to do it.

      These people are called “integrators”. You will be hearing this term more and more. Here at Builders Architectural, we have assembled a team of resources including electrical engineers, HVAC engineers and glazing experts in order to offer BIPV integration to the Chicago market. We are ready now to fill that void.

      Thanks for handing me the opportunity to plug our new service!

      Victor, can you tell us what you see elsewhere in the world regarding the use of BIPV?

  • Hi Mark:

    I watch your video. It is great because if it very informative. And
    you look reliable! I am pleased how many systems use sun tracking
    systems, since we designed that kind of system as a provocation
    project to Chicago tower makers.

    • Hi Zoka,

      I love your Solar Tower design. It looks like a living plant, phototroping toward the sun.
      Thank you for your compliments on the video. I am especially happy because I shot it, narrated it and edited it.
      There was no other person involved in the production. How’s that for efficient use of energy?

      The most interesting things at InterSolar were the trackers, and I do believe a 30-40% gain can be achieved with them.

      I encourage our readers to visit Zoka Zola’s wonderful website She’s got the Pfanner House, 2000-2002 Home of the Year Award, (3) zero energy houses and that drop-dead gorgeous solar tower at

      Also, there is a really nice solar chart for Chicago at

      Thank you, Zoka, for writing!

  • Not seen yet! Just heard that recently, and it seems a clean and environmental facade sourcing in the future! Thank you for your article.

  • The timing does seem right, and with our historical industrial base here in the Chicago area, it does seem a shame that we are not poised to take a larger share of the PV market.

    I have a small number of panels on my roof, and generate a small amount of power, but my system is not utility interactive, I can use one or the other, and the inverter can switch between them. I have not had the energy to pursue the permissions and such, as would be required to ship any of my locally produced power off to the grid. It would inevitibly require time, money, and upgrades to my systems to get this done.

    It seems inevitible that these types of systems will be more commonly implemented in future new construction and remodeling. I enjoyed your video presentation of the InterSolar show.

  • Hi Richard,
    Thanks for your comment.
    How do your panels integrate with the house?
    Do you have batteries? A generator? DC appliances?
    Do you have an idea of the usable power you are generating?
    Best regards,

  • Hi,

    – Do your panels integrate with the house?
    In my case, I have discrete panels on my roof. Some of these panels were purchased used, and some originally date from the 80’s (old Arco Panels) but still produce good power. I am not a builder, but had an interest in solar, so I did what I could easily do to my older flat roof. I suspect that with standard, well made panel construction some of the mono-crystaline and multicrystaline panels could last pretty near fifty years. Currently, many are warranted for 25 years.

    -Do you have batteries? A generator? DC appliances?
    In my system, I do not have a large storage component, I have a 110 Farad ultra-capacitor bank which can charge to 60 Volts on the nominal 48V system, which only stores about 40 Watt hours of usable energy. It is really more of a buffer than storage. I do not have a generator. For the main system, I have a 4000 Watt Trace (now Xantrex) inverter which runs in LBX mode which means that a connected lighting circuit is powered by Solar when the voltage of the capacitor bank is up (daytime), or grid power at night when there is no solar power. In the winter, I dump any surplus into heat, and this is controlled by the banks voltage. For the summer, the charge controller, a Trace C40 disconnects the solar panels at about 60V, although I am thinking about adding a hot water pre-heating tank to take advantage of the excesses in power I could generate. I have a couple of electrical outlets wired off of the inverter, so on a sunny day I can switch my washer and dryer (gas) over to those outlets to use a bit of the surplus. Aside from the laundry, this is all automated, and basically, the utilization of energy increases as the voltage increases, and if the usage can’t keep up with the generation, then the solar input is toggled off by the controller. I do use some DC lighting in my Laundry room but that pulls from a separate 12V system which is charged from separate panels through a Trace C12 charge and lighting controller and has 225 amp hours of battery storage in flooded lead acid batteries.

    -Do you have an idea of the usable power you are generating?
    I actually tracked the daily charge into the Capacitor Bank in February and into March of this year via an amp hour meter on the charge controller. It ranged from just over a quarter of a KiloWatt hour on a dark and snowy/rainy days to over 8 KWh/day in sunny weather. It was interesting to plot the general increase in energy collected as the days lengthened. When it got warm out, the heat was no longer needed, and my usage, and as a result, my generation both dropped.

    My system is not that large, or efficient, compared to what could be done, but it is an interesting hobby for me.

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