Solar Glass Buildings Now Possible, Just 10% Increase In Total Building Facade Cost

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Huge skyscrapers covered in glass solar cells that able to generate more than enough electricity for their own operations could become common in the future. Oxford Photovoltaics, a solar power company that produces colorful photovoltaic glass specifically for this purpose, recently announced a big boost in investment funding, receiving over £2 million.


The investment comes from the cleantech investors MTI Partners. It will help to bring the solar glass to the commercial market.

“What we say here is rather than attach photovoltaics to the building, why not make the building the photovoltaics?,” Kevin Arthur, the company’s founder and CEO, told the Guardian. “If you decide to build a building out of glass, then you’ve already decided to pay for the glass. If you add this, you’re adding a very small extra cost. (The solar cell treatment) costs no more than 10% of the cost of the facade.”

“These generally cost between £600 and £1,000 per square meter, meaning the new cell treatment would cost just £60–£100 extra per square meter.”

Turning regular glass into an electricity-generating medium is rather simple. The company simply adds a layer of clear, solid-state solar cells no thicker than three microns. This results in glass that turns about 12% of the solar energy that hits it into electricity.

“Within reason we can print any colour, there’s a wide range of dyes, blues and greens and reds and so on. But different colours have different efficiencies: black is very high, green is pretty good and red is good, but blue is less good,” said Arthur.

The new investment will specifically allow the creation of a new manufacturing facility, the hiring of new staff, and the purchase of new equipment. The company is aiming to have full-size panels ready for trials by the end of next year. Smaller samples will be available by the end of this year.

In related news, researchers at the University of Sheffield and University of Cambridge have created a method to “spray paint” solar cells onto surfaces, such as roofs and walls (not the first to explore this possibility); and a handful of other groups have also been working on windows that act as solar power generators.

Professor David Lidzey from the University of Sheffield said: “Spray coating is currently used to apply paint to cars and in graphic printing. We have shown that it can also be used to make solar cells using specially designed plastic semiconductors. Maybe in the future surfaces on buildings and even car roofs will routinely generate electricity with these materials.”

Both interesting technologies, and both should be available within the next couple of years. It’ll be interesting to see how they fit into the wider, and growing, solar energy revolution.

Source: The Guardian
Image Credit: Oxford Photovoltaics

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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