Solar Panels to Solar Windows; Skyscrapers opens A New Chapter in RE
As consumption of carbon emitting fossil fuels taking toll on the environment, renewable energy sources brought some relief to humanity. Going one step further scientists are turning Skyscrapers into power generators by developing solar windows which once fitted on these buildings can produce energy suffice to satisfy its power needs.
Next time when you pass by a skyscraper, you might be passing by a micro solar power grid as the building surfaces turning into power generators while colorful photovoltaics adorns their windows, facades, rooftops. Imagine how much renewable energy (RE) would the big cities generate without burning fuels and exuding loads of smoke in the environment.
Stretching this idea further Kevin Arthur, CEO of a solar power researcher of Oxford offshoot Oxford photovoltaics, says that, “Instead of coupling solar photovoltaics on the buildings why not build one with the same”. And this comes off very good for the buildings with copious use of glass like skyscrapers.
Cities consume around 75% of the total energy with 80% contribution to total green house gases emissions. Buildings alone eat up large portion of energy through their lifetime, right through their construction to the daily chorus- air conditioning, lighting, cleaning. Adding up a little more to the original cost using window glasses laced with solar cell treatment you could lessen the share of carbon generating fossil fuels which are depleting rapidly.
With the perception of skyscrapers becoming sources of renewable energy there are number of business behemoths willing to cash on this new economy. Doing away with conventional, original color of solar cells by adding dyes to solar cells and then combining it with glass substances we can produce cells with various tints and tones of colors. But the effectiveness of these modified cells completely depends on what color they have, if it’s black then it’s more effective than red, green and blue in that order.
However, like any other project this also has to face some hardships with solar windows. The first and most important is: window is what you see through it, but with glass windows coated with the solar cells or thin film silicon it turns into a semi-opaque material like a rooftop or wall losing its’ raison d etre.
Second one is the cost reduction, with the available devices it costs around ten times to that of conventional ways. With the cutting edge technology and advance engineering Sarah Kurtz who works with NREL US hopes to overcome these impediments. For that we have to bring down the solar window cost par with traditional glass windows. With the advancement of large size solar cells it’s become inexpensive to infuse solar cells into glass windows.
Effectuality has always been a concern for solar panels and with its necessity of being transparent solar windows makes it even harder. The rate for conversion of solar energy into electricity is various for different devices. This ability for organic solar cells is 10% which absorbs 60 to 20 % of the sunlight. While Spanish company Onyx asserts that its thin film silicon cell can stretch it up to 9%. At a time where conventional solar panels have productivity 20 %, 5 % of solar windows can’t be considered as austere.
Although, some doubts if the technical and structural problems are ever going to be solved still there are many who are working arduously to cross these hurdles whatsoever. It won’t be far when high rise skyline of Texas glittering with solar windows would be the lone electricity provider to neighboring households.