03 november 2010 

Casestudy: "Light from Light" - off-grid solar system with BIPV panels

In April 2010 our company Sinovoltaics was approached by the Australian organization Multimedia Art Asia Pacific (MAAP) to consult on the manufacturing of customized solar panels and an off-grid solar system for their art project called “Light from Light.”

Light from Light explores the properties and metaphors of light, and the notion of the library as a site of enlightenment. In this exhibition, artists treat light as a medium, an energy source and a metaphor for illumination and knowledge. A major outdoor photovoltaic geodesic dome brings function into a luminous sculptural form that references various histories in art and architecture.”

The dome itself was designed and constructed by Sinovoltaics. Sinovoltaics engineered the BIPV panels and the off-grid system.

The creative brains behind the photovoltaic dome are the artists. Their cooperation has led to this interesting artwork, for which the exhibitions were taking place simultaneously in Australia and China.

BIPV panels
For the construction of the outdoor photovoltaic geodesic dome, Sinovoltaics manufactured customized Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) panels.

BIPV panel design

The BIPV panels were fully customized according to the requirements of the project. The solar panels were made of two layers of tempered glass. In between, Sinovoltaics chose PVB as an inner layer, due to the good performance in warm weather and to fully seal the PV panel. Mono solar cells were used, with a total of 44watts power output for each BIPV panel. Each dome consisted of 20 BIPV panels.

The BIPV panels demonstrate how solar cells can be part of the building components of a structure, instead of being installed as conventional PV panels on a roof. The BIPV panels can be designed in different sizes, in full compliance with the glass standards of any country. The BIPV panels used are suitable for facades and curtain walls. Many aspects of the BIPV panels can be customized, including the % of sunlight passing through (transparency), the output of the panel, which varies from 80Wp – 120Wp per m² and the actual size.

Solar Dome - triangle solar panel BIPV

44Wp output Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)

Off-Grid System
The geodesic dome is self powered, and therefore needed a solid off-grid system to support all lighting. The off-grid system for the photovoltaic dome in Shanghai is operating on 36V, and has been designed to power the signage lighting (12V, 80W) and two LED flood light (36V, 20W), that are lighting up the dome. The weather conditions in Shanghai have been taken into account.

Solar dome - Battery bank - 3 x 200Amp

Battery bank – 3 x 200Amp

For the batteries we used three sealed 12V, 200amp batteries. Around 20% of the battery capacity will always remain charged, in order to prolong the life cycle of the batteries.

Solar Dome - Connecting the lights

Connecting the lights – LED 12V DC, 80W

With the use of a timer, the lights were turned on automatically every day at 5pm and the lighting system shut down at 9pm, lighting up the dome in the evening during the opening hours of the Shanghai Library.

Photovoltaic dome at State Library of Queensland, Australia

The first dome was built at the State Library of Queensland in Australia.


Photovoltaic dome at Shanghai Library, China


The second dome was built at the Shanghai Library in China. Both exhibitions hosted a photovoltaic dome.

Solar Dome - View from Shanghai Library

Solar Dome – View from Shanghai Library

Janet Burchill (Artist) & Sam (UAP)

Janet Burchill (Artist) & Sam (UAP)

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About the author
Dricus is Managing Director at Sinovoltaics Group.Sinovoltaics Group assists PV developers, EPCs, utilities, financiers and insurance companies worldwide with the execution of ZERO RISK SOLAR projects - implemented by our multinational team of solar PV-specialized quality engineers and auditors on-site in Asia.Dricus is based in Hong Kong and has been working in the PV industry in China for 10+ years. Connect with Dricus on LinkedIn
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