Sage Electrochromics, Inc, a Minnesota-based inventor of an international breakthrough glass innovation – a window that can be switched on or off to reject up to 98% of the sun’s heat and light on demand – has received a financial shot in the arm from the Obama administration Department of Energy for a total of $103 million.
Earlier this year, the company had been one of the recipients of the Recovery Act funded Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits (for $31 million), and today was offered an additional $72 million loan guarantee to help it invest in a 250,000 square foot high volume manufacturing facility to ramp up operations to mass produce its energy-saving glass.
“This investment will help cut utility bills, reduce carbon pollution, and create jobs our economy needs,” said Energy Secretary Secretary Chu in granting the loan guarantee. ”It’s a perfect example of the power of American innovation to create a stronger economy and a healthier planet.”
Globally, this is a breakthrough technology – an electronically tintable glass that can be switched from clear to darkly tinted and back at the push of a button. It could radically reduce world energy use, as it makes it possible to switch windows on or off, reducing building energy use by as much as 28%.
The company had been working with the NREL to develop and perfect its “sunglasses for buildings” that can be switched on to allow only 3.5% of heat and light in, in its tinted state. This means that it eliminates virtually all solar heat gain on hot afternoons.
Their SageGlass® is made the same way that regular energy-efficient low-e glass is made. The company coats regular glass with layers of metal oxides using a vacuum deposition process called “sputtering.” By shooting a low-voltage current though the coatings, the company manipulates how the glass absorbs or reflects light and heat from the sun.
The difference is that the emissivity of this glass can be controlled by a switch.
On sunny winter days when you want the maximum sunlit warmth coming in your windows, you can leave it turned off, and warm up the house. On hot sunny summer days, you can “put on sunglasses” and stay visually connected to the outdoors, but be protected from the glare and the heat gain.
Obviously the energy ramifications are hugely significant for two reasons.
Buildings use 40% of our energy, mostly for heating and cooling. This breakthrough assists both by making passive solar design much more effective. Passive design capitalizes on the fact that the sun travels much lower in the sky in winter, so that porches or overhangs over large South facing windows can do much to cool in Summer and warm in Winter for free.
In addition, buildings have no dirty denier industry funding disinformation to prevent changes in dirty energy use. Architects are more typically part of an educated class that does not reject the need to reduce fossil energy use to slow climate change.
For both these reasons, this breakthrough could really change energy use. Also, this could affect how we design buildings: on sunny days, when the tint is turned on, it is virtually impossible to see inside, giving many more people, in an increasingly crowded world, the privacy and visual connection to the world outside.
Great work and kudos to NREL, Sage Electrochromics, and the innovation-friendly Obama administration Department of Energy!
Image: Sage Electrochromics Commercial skylight application – with adjacent Solar PV
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Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.