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  • Writer's pictureOlivia

Solar Power Windows: Generating Energy While Leisurely Gazing

What if we told you that your window can power your laptop…or maybe your smartphone … or your AC during hot summers?

It would mean that entire cities might generate electricity from the sun via their windows in a sustainable manner.

Solar panels that are transparent and resemble glass are not just a pipe dream. They are already in use and have a great deal of potential to contribute to the global transition to renewable energy.

Researchers at MIT developed the technique, which they then commercialized as a firm called Ubiquitous Energy and a solar window product called UE Power. According to Ubiquitous Energy, their totally transparent solar window panels are "the first aesthetically pleasing, electricity-generating alternative to traditional windows" in the world.

What is 'transparent solar energy'?

A technology called transparent solar collects and uses light energy through windows or any other glass surface, no matter the angle. It could revolutionize the solar industry by extending its application.

Engineers have developed a number of methods for transparent solar technology. However, in most cases, they serve as transparent solar concentrators, which is to say that they are designed to capture particular UV and infrared light wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye and convert them into energy that can power electronics.

This technology, also known as photovoltaic glass, is created to offer a variety of transparency levels. In 2014, scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) created a solar concentrator that was completely transparent and could turn practically any glass sheet or window into a photovoltaic cell.

  • Also by 2020, researchers in the US and Europe will have made solar glass completely transparent, moving us one step closer to the objective of a sustainable future independent of the fossil fuel industry's grid.

  • For instance, according to the business news channel CNBC, the American company Ubiquitous Energy, a specialist in solar windows, intends to place solar windows on buildings to create "vertical solar farms" in the sky.

  • The California-based business anticipates beginning high-volume production of floor-to-ceiling transparent solar windows for buildings in 2024.

How do Solar Power Windows work?

A transparent coating or substance used in solar windows collects some of the light energy that enters the window and converts it into electricity. In contrast to solar panels, it collects energy from the infrared and ultraviolet light that we cannot see while still allowing some visible light to get through.

One of the businesses creating solar windows, Ubiquitous Energy, makes solar windows by coating ordinary windows with a unique glass coating that absorbs UV and infrared light energy. According to the manufacturer, these windows are totally transparent and permit light in the visible spectrum to pass through.

There are further solar window technologies being developed. Another method of harnessing solar energy has been developed by the University of Michigan researchers.

While conventional solar panels are an addition to an existing roof, transparent solar panel windows may theoretically replace regular glass window panes. As a result, "building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV)" is a common name for this particular type of solar technology. Another current invention that fits under the BIPV category is the solar roof from Tesla.

Many homeowners adore BIPV technologies because, depending on the type of installation, they can be far more aesthetically pleasing and simpler to maintain than conventional solar choices.

Conventional opaque solar panels create electricity using photovoltaic technology, which means they catch the energy in the form of light. Windows that function as solar panels must balance letting inbound light through to illuminate a room with catching inbound light to use for energy generation because windows are designed to let light through.

Insufficient light allows a solar window to function as little more than a vertically placed solar panel; excessive light prevents the window from producing enough electricity to be profitable. Solar panel windows must use transparent solar panel technology to become completely building-integrated and unobtrusive in order to have an impact on the solar market.

The Advantages

As was already noted, these panels' thin film technology was created especially for BIPV applications. As a result, it provides the following performance advantages:

Performance at poor angles

Even when they are not positioned at an angle that allows for the best absorption of direct sunlight, thin film solar cells are still capable of operating at a high degree of efficiency. Because of this, there is more scope for installation, including mounting them vertically on structures without sacrificing total effectiveness.

Efficiency in low lighting

Moreover, thin-film solar cells can function with as little as 10% sunlight. This increases the number of hours that power may be generated throughout the year, leading to more stable energy production. Thin film alignment will also lessen the impact of shadowing on panels.

Superior heat tolerance

High temperatures have less of an impact on these panels. As a result, they won't need any ventilation to function at their best. Moreover, thin films have a tendency to operate more effectively over a wider temperature range. They will therefore benefit from the greatest amount of energy production potential.

Comparable costs

Actually, the upfront cost of installation is quite comparable to that of traditional building materials. Yet, their increased versatility does make them a more advantageous option financially.

Strong panels

In addition to being highly robust and resistant, these panels also feature laminated glass, which improves their overall functionality. Additionally, it expands their potential for use in installation applications.

Cost and Efficiency

The core of each of the glass panels is integrated with a layer of thin photovoltaic in the most recent Polysolar design. This design has a cost of £250 per square meter and can provide 12% to 15% efficiency levels with its grey-tinted panel. This is more than a typical thin film solar panel, but it is also an improvement over the company's first orange-tinted variant.

● The first orange model had a cost per square meter of only £175, however, it could only generate an efficiency of about 9%. These panels' amazing ability to manage glare and lower heat gain while still being transparent is one of their best qualities. When it comes to lowering the amount of energy used inside a structure, this is a crucial consideration.

The development of a fully clear solar panel without any tinting is the next stage for Polysolar. While one was developed by Michigan State University in 2014 and was known as the transparent luminescent solar concentrator, its efficiency was only 1%.

The infrared light is directed to photovoltaic solar cells at the concentrator's edge by this transparent sheet, which also covers windows. There is still a long way to go when it comes to a perfectly clear panel, but research and development at Polysolar are still going tremendously strong.

Ending With Solar Panel Blinds

Solar technology is progressing quickly. Solar panel blind development is also well under progress in addition to solar glass. Effectively, solar panel blinds are solar panels that mimic conventional roller blinds. They function similarly to regular blinds by preventing the entry of outdoor light, but they also have the ability to transform solar energy into useful electricity. Also, the panels will move automatically with the direction of the sun throughout the day to maximize output and efficiency.

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