2020 is already proving to be a big year for . In the past decade, we have seen solar panels on rooftops, carports, windows, and organized en masse as solar farms around the world. Now, solar panels are being incorporated into the very structure of newer commercial buildings.  

These building-wrapping solar panels are referred to as ‘.’ One particular building in Los Angeles, appropriately named EPIC, is the first of its kind in the area to implement these innovative solar panels. 

The EPIC building is comprised of 13 stories and by late spring, will house one of the world’s most popular streaming services – Netflix. This otherworldly office building will also include other advanced technologies, including electric car charging stations and mailroom drones.  

Building Integrated Photovoltaics 

The scientific term for EPIC’s envelope solar panels is ‘building integrated photovoltaics,’ or BIPV for short. Rooftop solar panels, solar shingles, and solar skylights are all included in this technology, along with envelope solar panels, which can replace or cover traditional glass windows 

Envelope solar panels are semi-transparent and hardly noticeable when placed over windows. They can even be retrofitted to cover a building’s exterior.  

EPIC was designed by Gensler, in conjunction with developers at Hudson Pacific Properties. The envelope solar panels face the south and east sides of the building, where the most sun exposure can be found. Crystalline solar panels comprise the envelope solar panels. They are hung vertically, connected together by electrical conduits and wires that carry gathered electricity to rooms throughout the building. 

What Makes EPIC Different 

Chris Barton, Executive Vice President of Development for Hudson Pacific Properties, has stated that the initial goals of EPIC were to make it “superior to other buildings in the market – and to make it one of the more energy efficient properties in the market.”  

In line with these goals, EPIC has also been outfitted with special lighting controls and an energy efficient plumbing system in addition to the envelope solar panels. Barton encourages business owners to consider envelope solar panels, despite the initial costs for installation and upkeep. In his perspective, financial incentives should not be the main focus of this kind of pursuit.  Business owners need to see it as, “being forward-thinking, environmentally conscious, and mindful about how they’re building.” 

Using Architectural Design to Increase Solar Access 

Architects and interior designers have been putting their skills to the test by finding ways to integrate solar power into everyday objectsSolar blinds, solar-powered desks, and even solar roadways have been marketed in the last few years. As the solar and renewable energy fields have expanded, so have architectural innovations.  

Instead of solar power being an afterthought, it can now be incorporated right into building design from the start. However, the biggest obstacle to implementing solar-based architecture is the initial cost. Until more homeowners and commercial building owners embrace solar power, prices will continue to remain high. 

Now that big names like Netflix are fully committing to envelope solar panels and other renewable energies, there is a good chance that other businesses will follow suit and pursue similar actions. 

Renewable Energy: What to Expect in 2020 

Based on the latest statistics released by the Solar Energy Industries Association, enough solar power has been installed across the United States to power 13.5 million homes.  

Nearly every quarter in 2019 showed substantial growth in solar integration and market production. Quarter 3 of 2019 was particularly remarkable, with solar energy accounting for nearly 40% of all new electricity-generating capacity.  

California, the state with the largest residential market for solar, broke quarterly records in 2019. The Golden State also continues to hold its position as one of the top solar states in the country.  

New homes built in California in 2020 will require solar panel installation before hitting the market. This is great news for solar advocates and the American population in general. As this new policy is acted upon, we will likely see a positive shift in public perception of residential solar access and implementation. 

Resources: 

https://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/22169/title/solar-panels-power-netflix-office 

https://www.seia.org/us-solar-market-insight 

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