What are Dual-Use Photovoltaic Technologies?

Dual-use photovoltaic (PV) technologies, also known as dual-use PV, are a type of PV application where the PV panels serve an additional function besides the generation of electricity. While the most prominent dual-use application is building-integrated PV (BIPV), other dual-use PV technologies include agrivoltaics, floating photovoltaics (FPV), and vehicle-integrated photovoltaics (VIPV).  

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)  

In BIPV, solar materials are used to replace conventional building materials in parts of the building’s structure like the roof, skylights, balustrades, awnings, and facades. The most commonly recognized type of BIPV is carports and parking shade structures. BIPV serves as the outer layer of a building, and it generates electricity for on-site use or exports it to the grid. This differs from traditional rooftop solar, where PV modules are placed on top of an existing roof.  

Graphic showing examples of building-integrated solar photovoltaics.


Solar and agriculture co-location, also referred to as agrivoltaics, is defined as agricultural production, such as crop or livestock production or pollinator habitats, underneath or between rows of solar panels. In addition to solar energy production, the PV panels can also provide shade and potentially reduce the need for irrigation of the site on which they are located. Most large, ground‐mounted solar PV systems are installed on land used only for solar energy production, making agrivoltaics unique in that it can provide benefits to both the solar and agricultural industries. Learn more about agrivoltaics.  

Graphic showing examples of agriculture-integrated solar photovoltaics.

Floating Photovoltaics (FPV)  

FPV, also known as floatovoltaics, mounts solar panels on floating structures that are deployed on reservoirs, lakes, and other large man-made bodies of water as well as in near-shore and off-shore marine applications. When deployed on bodies of water, FPV systems can reduce evaporation and leverage otherwise unused space, reducing land-use concerns. 

Graphic showing an example of floating solar photovoltaics.

Vehicle-Integrated Photovoltaics (VIPV) 

With VIPV, solar cells are mechanically and electrically added into the design of a vehicle. The PV elements integrate into the vehicle exterior and the electric system to supply power to on-board electronics or batteries while also serving as the vehicle’s roof, hood, door, or fender providing structural and safety functionality. 

While not technically dual-use, another type of vehicle photovoltaics—vehicle-added or attached PV (VAPV)—attaches traditional PV modules to the existing vehicle structure to generate energy.  

If commercialized, VIPV and VAPV offer two main uses: propulsion in electric vehicles, which improves the range of the electric vehicle; and power for systems such as heating and cooling.  

Graphic showing examples of vehicle-integrated solar photovoltaics.

Why are Dual-Use Photovoltaic Technologies Important?  

Innovative dual-use technology like agrivoltaics, BIPV, FPV, and VIPV creates opportunities to develop domestically made products capable of expanding PV markets as well as reducing reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  

By integrating solar energy systems into existing landscapes, dual-use PV and has the potential to minimize land-use concerns and creates opportunities for more aesthetically pleasing solar energy systems.  

Research in dual-use PV technologies supports the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office’s (SETO) goals of improving the affordability, performance, and value of solar technologies and establishing a domestic manufacturing base. Learn more about SETO’s PV goals. 

SETO Research in Dual-Use Photovoltaic Technologies 

SETO research in these technologies ultimately aims to support U.S. solar manufacturing, spur innovation, reduce the soft costs and other barriers to equitable solar energy deployment. Specifically:  

  • BIPV research projects are developing aesthetically pleasing, high-efficiency BIPV products that reduce costs for homeowners and building professionals.  
  • FPV projects are improving U.S. competitiveness in the floating solar market and optimizing the economic and environmental value of FPV.  
  • Vehicle PV projects are generating technological advancements to lower the cost of solar power generation systems and installation on vehicles.  

SETO funded the following projects related to dual-use PV technologies: