We’re seeing an abundance of solar-powered technology sweeping the nation, all in the nick of time (we hope). Solar farms are popping up all across Africa and North America; Germany has become the most energy independent nation on Earth, rivaling America nearly fourfold. It’s an amazing time, and with innovative energy solutions, we get the startups and the pitfalls. Solar powered windows—it sounds crazy, but it just might work.
How Solar Panels Work
Solar panels are actually photovoltaic slabs that are made out of silicon cells—an entire network of them—and through those, solar power can be extracted and turned into kinetic energy, or electric energy. The same thing is being done to windows, but is it a wise investment?
Solar Powered Windows
It sounds a bit redundant to call them “solar-powered windows,” since windows are the ones being run by solar energy—however, they are absorbing solar energy in small batches. Much like the first development of photovoltaic panels back in 1954, solar windows are slow moving. Back when Chapin, Fuller, and Pearson developed solar cell energy, the effectivity range was within, or less than 1%. That’s how these windows are operating in their infancy.
They undergo a certain type of adhesive, which applies micro-thin layers of silicon cells to the windows, while still making them appear clear and bright. You get a small amount of tint to them with most models, roughly between 3%-5%. That energy is then sapped into the cells, and when all the cells fill up (which can happen fairly quickly), the energy moves to the base of the windows to bleed into thin lines that feed into the energy supply of the building. It’s as if you’re slowly sapping the sun for small bits of energy.
It’s Not Worth It… Yet
This is definitely a breakthrough. Thousands of years ago, when glassmakers were crafting imperfect windows, they were just trying to keep the wind and the bugs out. Now, we have the power in our modern day and age to have our windows work for us. As of right now, though, it’s not really worth it. Not yet.
These solar windows end up running an extra $370.00 per window panel (on average, based on statistics gathered from the few startup companies that exist for this type of business model), and after enough time, those silicon cells that are essentially painted onto your windows will burn up. As about ten or twenty years stretch on, sun bleaching will strip the silicon cells of most of their usefulness, meaning that your energy absorption rate will diminish.
The tech is still there, and it shows great promise. Ten years from now, you could see solar-powered windows and windshields on cars aiding in extending the life of your battery, or windows that can charge your cell phone. The possibility is out there—it all depends on what we do with it.