We’ve been covering New Energy Technologies and its SolarWindow technology for years (see the stories at the bottom of this post). However, a new solar startup out of the UK is apparently looking to offer a similar product and could even beat New Energy Technologies to market. Oxford Photovoltaics (aka Oxford PV) was spun out of Oxford University towards the end of 2010. It’s looking to get the price of its technology down to 35 cents per watt (that’s low) and intends to have it on the market by the second half of 2013.
Windows that Generate Power?
So, you might be wondering: ‘Is this legit? Can we really create power from the sunlight that hits windows?’ The answer is: ‘Of course we can! It’s already being done.’ The issue now is just getting the cost down (famous last words of many companies and future-tech enthusiasts).
Oxford PV combines dye-based thin-film solar cells with glass substrates for its technology. This combo results in tinted glass that is at the same time a solar power generation system.
“We screen print metal oxides, dyes, plastics and polymers directly on to glass,” explained Kevin Arthur, chief executive of Oxford PV. “Light reacts with the dye to create a current that we collect through two terminals, just like a standard battery.”
The tinted glass can come in a variety of colors or opaque, and apparently architects are dying for it (no pun intended) and trying to get the company to speed up its development process.
Next Steps for Oxford PV
“The technology has been successfully developed in the lab and Arthur is in San Francisco this week as part of the UK’s Clean and Cool Mission with a view to raising £3.5m in venture capital funding to support the development of a pilot production line,” Business Green reports.
“We have small prototype cells that are 10cm by 10cm, but we want to move to a full scale pilot production line that can make panels that are two metres by three metres,” Arthur said. He also noted that the (simplified) roadmap to commercial production is to finish its current funding round by the end of 2012 and start commercially producing solar glass panels by the third quarter of 2013.
Solar Window Advantages
“There are a lot of cost advantages to thin film solar technologies,” Arthur noted. “Because you are basically screen printing, production costs are much lower than for conventional solar cells and the cost of the materials is also falling. But most importantly once a company has decided to have a glass façade on their building they have already decided to install our substrate.” (And the good news is, that’s the majority of the surface of most modern buildings.)
While the technology certainly isn’t there yet, “modelling done by the company suggested the system could produce solar power at a cost of just 35 cents per watt,” according to Business Green.
Solar Window Potential
Currently, Oxford PV’s solar window technology is just producing electricity at a little over 6% efficiency, but models have shown that there is potential to get that up to about 20%. And, again, the main advantages are the overall lower costs and the widespread use of glass as a building material.
“Figures from architects show that 60 per cent of many modern commercial buildings’ surface area is glass,” Arthur noted. “We have modelled the effect of the solar glass on a 700 foot skyscraper in Texas and it revealed that we could generate up to 5.3MWh a day.
“That’s enough to power 52,000 iPads. If you combined the solar glass with the installation of LED lighting in the building you could power all your lights, as well as DC powered devices such as laptops.”
Solar Windows from New Energy Technologies
As noted at the top of this article, US startup New Energy Technologies has been working on solar window technology (SolarWindows) for the past few years as well. If you missed stories on this company and technology, check out:
- ‘Invisible Wires’ for Transporting Electricity on SolarWindows
- “Invisible” Solar Panels are on the Way
- SolarWindows from New Energy Technologies
- Government Scientists Put See-Through Solar Windows on the Fast Track
Image: screenshot from Oxford PV website