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Size Matters: New See Through Solar Windows Go Big

The company New Energy Technologies is reporting a breakthrough in their see through solar window technology and it’s all about size. When New Energy began developing a solar glass coating several years ago, it started out as a solution in a vial before progressing to a tiny square. In the latest development, New Energy’s SolarWindow™ array tops 232 square centimeters.

Size is not the only factor that makes a see through solar window glass desirable. Uniformity of tint is another critical achievement for SolarWindow announced by New Energy Technologies, and the pleasing color of the tint is an added plus.

see through solar glass by New Energy Technologies

Courtesy of New Energy Technologies.

See Through Solar Windows From New Energy Technologies

New Energy Technologies first came across our radar back in 2010, when it reported the successful development of a spray-on solution of solar cells, each less than 1/4 the size of a grain of rice. The resulting solar film could generate electricity from fluorescent bulbs, LEDs and other forms of indoor lighting, diffused or shaded sunlight, and direct sunlight.

spray on solar paint for window glass

Transparent spray on solar cells courtesy of New Energy Technologies.

By 2011, the new spray on solar coating caught the attention of the Energy Department and the company entered into an agreement with NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to bridge the “Valley of Death” between labwork and the commercial market.

Among the challenges was to increase the number of working solar cells that contact the substrate, increase the size of the windows, and come up with low cost, more durable materials.

SolarWindow prototype courtesy of New Energy Technologies.

Early SolarWindow prototype courtesy of New Energy Technologies.

The last time we caught up with New Energy Technologies, was last year, when the partnership with NREL expanded to include the development of a see through solar window coating that could be applied to flexible surfaces as well as rigid glass.

Building Integrated Solar Power

The latest see through solar window breakthrough is particularly significant for the growing field of building integrated solar power.

With an eye toward the commercial market in skyscrapers, the new SolarWindow array is more than 35 percent larger than its previous working module, which clocked in at 170 cm².

Because of its ability to harvest energy from artificial, diffused, and shaded sunlight, the modules can also be incorporated into all sides of a building. That’s a major advantage in terms of simplifying the construction supply chain while getting the most energy-harvesting potential from the entire exterior building surface.

Maximizing the energy generating potential of the built environment is one major advantage for solar technology, particularly compared to infrastructure-intensive central power plants.

Combined with advanced energy storage technology, building integrated solar provides dense urban areas with a pathway toward achieving a significant amount of local energy generation, providing a buffer against grid disruptions while potentially lowering energy costs.

New Energy also notes that as a spray-on solution, SolarWindow lends itself to inexpensive, high-volume manufacturing methods. That’s an important consideration in the solar energy field, where the most efficient solar conversion is only one factor in the cost of solar power. Manufacturing, shipping, and installation also factor in heavily.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.

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