Thanks to innovative new technology, buildings can generate electricity from solar energy without sole reliance on solar panels. Researchers are developing pioneering new technology through the latest innovation in Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).
Article by HL interior designer North East
Glass block, the new technology, can accelerate the widespread introduction of net-zero energy buildings. Furthermore, incorporating the innovative technology into the building’s fabric is designed for collecting solar energy and converting it to electricity.
The electricity consumption of buildings is over 40% of global production. Fortunately, with this new technology, energy production will be at the use site with seamless integration into the building.
Solar Squared, which is the blocks’ name, has a design that fits seamlessly in new buildings and renovations of existing properties. Additionally, these blocks are similar to Tesla’s solar tile; they can generate electricity by becoming a part of a building’s architecture. After replacing solid wall materials with transparent glass units, the blocks allow daylight into a building’s interior.
Because the blocks have intelligent optics, they enhance the overall generated energy of their tiny solar cells. The focused incoming solar radiation on each cell generates power. Afterward, you can power a building or store and charge electric vehicles with the generated electricity.
The glass block aims to build affordable, efficient, and integrated solar technologies with a minute impact on the local landscape. Because they have better thermal insulation and power supply to buildings, they are more efficient than traditional glass blocks.
Since the world is moving to a distributed energy system, with most of it renewable, this patent-pending technology couldn’t have come at a better time. Consequently, electricity can be generated in substantial amounts at the point of use, especially with the shift to electric vehicles.
Turning Windows into Energy-generating Panels with Solar Glass
Solar panels, otherwise known as photovoltaic modules, have made power generation from sunlight as an energy source easy for a while now. Nevertheless, solar panels require sufficient rooftop or ground space before producing substantial energy – this is a considerable downside, especially in big cities with limited space. Recently, companies have come up with a solar glass or solar windows, which uses windows as power-generating panels.
What Is Solar Glass?
Solar glass is a power-generating replacement for conventional materials, especially in skylights, roofs, facades, and windows. This technology is different from traditional solar photovoltaic. The panels are built into the building with solar glass and not added on, thus giving room for aesthetics and functionality.
There are different types of solar glass, with the common ones being the thin-film modules. Amorphous silicon and cadmium telluride are thin-film modules, and they’ve been around for a few years. Besides designing them into a building’s fabric, solar glass is suitable for conditions and locations where conventional solar panels cannot.
Furthermore, solar glass efficiency varies depending on its opacity; it is self-regulating and varies between 50% transparency and full opacity. Therefore, with higher opacity, the technology has greater efficiency. Also, with less transparency, only little light can pass through.
Why Should You Choose Solar Glass?
The world has to transition to renewable energy properly and away from fossil fuels, reducing carbon emissions. Wind, tidal, hydro, geothermal, biomass, and solar energies are all forms of renewable energy. Sunlight is one of the most abundant and freely available resources of these forms. Because the amount of solar energy reaching the earth’s surface in an hour is greater than the world’s total energy requirements for a year, harnessing this resource is obvious.
For a while now, most of the solar panels on the market have been crystalline silicon. However, because they are not transparent, you must place them on the roofs or the ground. Therefore, they are perfect for use with houses on a town’s outskirts. But, on the other hand, big cities have buildings several stories high, made of glass, and close together; therefore, they do not have sufficient space for solar panels. Therefore, because solar glass can turn glass windows into energy-generating panels, they are the perfect solution.
Benefits Of Solar Glass
Electricity production is not the sole benefit of integrating solar glass into buildings. Other benefits of solar glass include;
Providing shade and glare control while giving the building enough transparency for light to penetrate
Providing sound insulation, thanks to their multi-layer structure. Additionally, increasing or decreasing the glazing’s thickness adjusts insulation levels
A PV module’s temperature increases significantly on exposure to radiation. Therefore, the radiated heat is harnessed to provide thermal control, including thermal insulation and thermal gain reduction.
The solar glass is aesthetic. You can apply different colors and effects to the technology
Where Can You Use Solar Glass?
Because of its partial transparency, solar glass is versatile. The technology has several applications. For example, solar glass is suitable for use at bus stops, atriums, and skylights. They are also ideal as privacy protection panels since they are opaque and can only be transparent up to 50%. Furthermore, solar windows are the most obvious application of this technology. They allow buildings, including skyscrapers have power-generating facades.
Who Are the Solar Glass Pioneers?
Several companies around the world are working to make solar glass mainstream. Some solar glass pioneers include;
Ubiquitous Energy is a Silicon Valley technology company. This company is leading next-generation solar technologies development. The company was born from MIT and Michigan State University’s research, and it is founded on the principle of integrating solar technologies into everyday products seamlessly. The company’s main product is the transparent solar coating integration into standard windows, with several possibilities in future applications.
Physee is a European manufacturer that first installed transparent solar panels. One of the company’s major technologies is the power bar. The power bar consists of small solar panels installed along the edges of a windowpane to generate power.
The company is also working on a power-generating glass coating. This technology directs sunlight into the integrated solar cells in power windows. These windows can produce the same energy as one-fifth of a solar panel placed on a building’s roof
Solar glass technology is still in its early stages. Therefore, it is not widely available. Nevertheless, the technology is promising and ideal for generating electricity from the sun. furthermore, with companies innovating and improving their products, the first crop of solar glass buildings should be available in the next decade