Solar Windows Are Coming and They’re Going to Change Everything
Just when you thought the future of solar power couldn’t get any, er…brighter, solar windows come along and change everything. Well, they aren’t exactly here yet and they won’t actually change everything.
That said, the new technology being developed to make solar power generating windows a reality is amazing, and once it’s ready for the big time of commercial release, it does promise to be a game changer of sorts.
There are many, many buildings that are much taller than their roofs are wide. Imagine downtown Tokyo, or Sacramento for that matter, only with all the windows in all the skyscrapers replaced with efficient, see-through solar panels, generating more electricity than the building uses during the daytime and either storing the excess or feeding it back to the grid. It may not be the last piece in the sustainable energy puzzle, but it seems like a big one.
Troubles With Efficiency and Transparency
So if solar windows are going to be such a game changer, where are they? What’s taking so long? Well, the technology needed to create transparent photovoltaic cells has been slow in its development. In fact, it’s still ongoing in its development with efficiency hovering around one percent for clear glass.
Regular solar cells harvest around fifteen percent of the solar energy that passes through them. Unfortunately, to make the coating that actively harvests the sun’s energy that passes through solar windows as clear as possible also limits their efficiency.
For now, this lack of efficiency is being side-stepped given the sheer size of the potential area over which solar windows could be deployed.
Applications for Solar Windows
There are a couple of manufacturers that are ready to go, and we may start seeing installation of solar windows as early as this year. That said, with efficiency as low as it is utilizing available technology, it may be some time before we see installation really take off.
With new coatings utilizing semi-conductor technology coming on line in the next year or two, we may see little activity for now, with a major upswing in the future. Most of the early applications will center around large companies with big glass to install, and serious sustainability as a part of their mission.
If You Already Have Solar Panels, Don’t Worry; They Aren’t Obsolete
Please know that, if you just had solar panels put up on your roof, this isn’t cause for alarm. Your solar panels are fifteen times as efficient at collecting and harvesting energy from the sun. They will continue to be a major piece of the sustainability puzzle for you and your community as long as you have them in place. They will also still pay for themselves over time.
Solar windows are more of an additional bonus solar technology, and the technology that comes with them may have excellent applications with far-reaching impacts as soon as the right combination of investment and ingenuity begins to engage with them.
[Photo via: Extremetech]