A window that produces electricity? You've gotta' be kidding me! (It's tinted too!)
Ok, so this concept is still mostly in the research phase. For now, most of us will have to settle on solar window films and tints to shut out the sun from overbaking our air conditioners.
However, the thought of creating a tint that both blocks out the sun and produces electricity has apparently tantalized the mind of more than one researcher as they stared up at the gigantic sky scrapers huddled together in the middle of our major cities.
So how far along is this technology? And how will it serve you?
One solar window that is getting a lot of buzz is the window created by Chin Hua. Firsted reported by Engadget in June of 2010, this prototype window came in different amounts of 'haziness”. The more hazy the window, the more electricity it will produce.
The window that was on display at the Taipei's International Optoelectronics Week could produce up to 2 watts of energy. Sounds to me like a great idea for a skylight. Unfortunately, at this time there is no further information available about this product.
Using photovoltaic dyes, a company out of Massachusettes (Konarka) has produces a flexible “solar panel” called Power Plastic. This Power Plastic was used in 2008 in the translucent roofing of the new bus stop shelters in San Fransisco, California to create a green bus shelter concept. The dyes themselves block light, but since they arranged in strips, light can still get between them.
Konarka has also taken their research a step further and developed a perfectly clear solar panel that operates at about 6% efficiency. While still in the research stage, this panel has proven to be quite versatile, and already Konarka has produced some of these in limited quantities.
MIT is also in the middle of this research. Currently they are using a photovoltaic dye that collects infrared rays. By collecting light that cannot be seen, their solar window is also clear. Currently, this solar window is only boasting about a 1-1.7% efficiency, but they hope to boost that to about 10%
One of the most promising ideas is a polymer spray created by Ensol, a company out of Norway. Working with the University of Leicester, they have developed a polymer with photovoltaic nano-particles suspended in it. When sprayed on a window, it tints it and converts any existing window into a solar window.
Currently Ensol's solar window spray technology is only at about 8-10% efficiency. Their goal is by 2016 to develop a window that is 20% solar efficient.
Another company which is gearing their technology towards the skyscrapers and office buildings is Pythagoras. They offer the “Photovoltaic Glass Unit” or PVGU which is an insulated window that also produces electricity. At only $125 per square foot, the Pythagoras estimates that the PVGU can pay for itself within 5 years. If that is true, that is about 20 years faster than most other solar systems on the market.
Basically, the benefits of solar windows lies in the ability to convert existing structures into solar powerplants without having to use more land. For the average homeowner, this can offer the ability to use an existing item – the window- an convert it into power.
So, what's next? Solar siding?
While the scientists iron out the kinks in solar windows, all of us can help save energy by unplugging electrical devices, using led and fluorescent lights, and power sensitive appliances.