New Tech Turns Skyscrapers into Solar Generators

Posted by: Maxine Brimmer (3 years ago)

Windows of the past were lazy; they just sat there, keeping out the elements and collecting smudgy fingerprints, but now those days are over. Developments in solar power technology could put your windows to work in the next few years.

Oxford Photovoltaics is the company that wants to do away with the standard solar panels by ingeniously installing solar technology right into large sheets of glass. If they succeed, it could mean that large buildings will begin to harness clean energy and erase or seriously reduce their carbon footprint. In the US, the energy used to maintain and run large buildings is responsible for up to 39% percent of all CO2 emissions according to the US Green Buildings Council.

A spin-off unit from the University of Oxford, Oxford Photovoltaics is piloting the revolutionary technique of imbuing glass with solar cells by printing. The process works by adding solid-state solar cells in a layer about 3 microns thick to a sheet of glass, allowing it to harness up to 12% of solar energy. The glass can also be dyed different colors, though some colors harness solar power more efficiently than others.

In order to begin creating the glass on a larger scale, Oxford Photovoltaics has been given a grant of around $3million by clean technology investors MTI Partners. It is hoped that full-sized sheets of glass will be available by the end of 2014. Currently it is estimated that the solar glass will only add an extra 10 percent to the total cost of installing a glass façade. Though the offer is certain to be tempting to new building developments, the solar energy solutions will also be available to be retrofitted onto existing structures.

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