Glass technology turns skyscrapers into power stations

April 14, 2016

Transparent electricity-generating coatings for glass and flexible plastics may see skyscrapers producing 50 times more power than a rooftop solar installation.

Designed for applications such as windows or screens, the technology could turn buildings into mini power stations.

SolarWindow scientist with transparent cell: hoping to offset skyscrapers’ carbon footprint
SolarWindow scientist with transparent cell: hoping to offset skyscrapers’ carbon footprint

The launch of the third phase of a research and development deal between the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and US company SolarWindow Technologies will see efforts to enhance product performance, increase scale, improve reliability and obtain performance certifications required for a commercial rollout.

SolarWindow is initially targeting the five million tall towers and commercial buildings in the United States, which consume almost 40% of the nation’s electrical energy.

SolarWindow and NREL teams will focus on large-scale window fabrication and interconnection development for easy ‘plug-n-play’ on-site installation.

The research plans also include advanced performance measurement and modelling of the technology in different building types and geographies, as well as performance under varying artificial and natural light conditions.

“We’re one step closer to launching what is possibly the single greatest breakthrough technology in clean energy to help us overcome our dependence on fossil fuels,” said John A. Conklin, CEO of SolarWindow. “Keeping in mind that commercial buildings consume almost 40% of America’s electricity, our goal is to put a solid dent in reducing carbon emissions and offsetting a building carbon footprint, while providing customers with clean electricity generating solutions that make economic sense.”

Editor’s comment: Large glass-panelled buildings represent a major opportunity for power generation with the development of transparent solar modules. The technology exists – scale, efficiency and reliability now need to be worked on to make it commercial and available for architects.

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