In 2019, U-Solar Clean Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd. installed India’s largest building integrated vertical solar PV system at a data center in Mumbai. The system, with a capacity of about 1MW, has been installed by integrating solar panels on all four walls of the facility, covering over 5000 square feet of facade area.
Since this was an existing building, the project came with its own set of challenges.
It called for the use of custom designed aluminum rails as the module mounting structure. Frameless panels were used on the facade. The panels were connected as they were placed on the structure, and electrical work and construction took place simultaneously for timely delivery.
Since the building was already constructed, this was a constraint on the solar energy that could be harnessed. To partially address this issue, power optimizers have been used on each panel.
Power optimizers increase energy output from PV systems by constantly tracking the maximum power point (MPPT) of each module individually. They can also monitor the performance of each module.
According to R. Harinarayan, Founder and CEO of U-Solar, by replacing the glass used in the facade with photovoltaic modules we have created a solar power plant on the building structure while the inverter and other components are housed inside the building. “As the facility uses electricity 24/7, the BIPV solar plant offsets a part of the carbon emission due to their dependence on fossil fuel based grid electricity – an initiative taken by the data centre to meet their sustainability goals,” he said.
In terms of environmental benefits, U-Solar estimates the solar power system will help provide a CO2 emissions reduction equivalent to almost 7000 trees per year.
Advantages of the Vertical Route
There has been a continued increase in the number of real estate projects opting for green certifications – both LEED and India’s own GRIHA rating systems. This has slowly but steadily opened up a larger market for local energy generation as well as energy efficiency.
Mostly, however, the roof available for installing conventional rooftop solar systems is quite limited in tall buildings as most of it is used for other purposes as well. The building facade, on the other hand, can provide a much larger space which is otherwise quite unusable for anything else.
This provides an opportunity to replace the conventional glass used in commercial buildings with solar panels which can generate power, thereby reducing its energy footprint in addition to providing a positive ROI on the additional investment.
The panels themselves can act quite like thermal insulation by blocking the sun and thus also reducing the power consumption of the air conditioning system.