New software from RMIT unlocks smart solar design

Female student wearing a purple hijab uses specialist software on laptop
RMIT student Aminath Samaha using the BIPV Enabler during class

Designing buildings with solar cleverly incorporated into the design has just become easier, thanks to software developed at RMIT University.

Building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV, are building features such as roof tiles, cladding and windows that double as solar panels. Depending on the dwelling, BIPVs can cover a greater area of a building, generating solar energy from different angles. They also look smart and can be customised.

Related article: La Trobe Uni to build Victoria’s largest urban solar farm 

Despite the potential of BIPVs, conventional roof-mounted panels continue to account for the lion’s share of new installations in Australia due to the extra complexity in predicting performance and sourcing BIPV technology.

Now a team at RMIT has created software to help architects and engineers incorporate, source and cost BIPV in a building’s conceptual design phase.

The software, funded by RMIT and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), is the first of its kind to be designed using Australian data.

Project lead Associate Professor Rebecca Yang from RMIT’s Solar Energy Application Group said she hoped the tool, called BIPV Enabler, would help make buildings greener.

“This is the perfect solution for building designers and developers looking to select the right solar option to suit their design,” said Yang, who is the director of the Australian PV Institute and driving the BIPV Alliance.

“We’re making integrated-solar a more attractive option to developers, slicing the time it would normally take to research and implement incognito solar devices.

“This isn’t just for new buildings either. Those looking to retrofit integrated solar into existing buildings will benefit too.”

Related article: Solar skin: Australia’s first fully solar-clad building

The tool integrates product, regulation, technical, economic and construction data to create 3D models and detailed lifecycle simulations tailored to each building’s planned location.
It comes as the construction of Australia’s first office tower to be fully clad in solar panels was announced last year.

Parties interested in testing the BIPV Enabler should contact the Solar Energy Application Group.

Previous articleApplications open for $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program
Next articleNew Zealand’s carbon emissions are on the way down—thanks in part to policies now under threat