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When you walk through the sun-filled atrium of the Edmonton Convention Centre or glimpse the dramatic sloped roof of the Varennes Library in suburban Montreal, it’s not obvious these buildings are generating power. After all, neither has traditional solar panels tacked on the roof. But the semi-transparent skylights of the atrium and the shingles on the sloped roof are more than just protection from the elements — they’re building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). That is, they’re made of solar panels. It’s a solution touted by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, which started selling solar roof tiles in the U.S. in 2017. Since then, a range of made-in-Canada options for different parts of buildings have hit the market — and installations have sprung up across the country showcasing what’s possible. Here’s a closer look at how BIPV differs from traditional solar panels and why a lot more may be part of the buildings of the future. While traditional solar panels are attached to buildings, BIPVs are built into the exterior as key elements. They can be anything exposed to the sun: shingles, windows, cladding, skylights, pergolas, balcony railings.

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