Solar Panels For Windows

Are Solar Panels For Windows The Best Bet For Net-Zero Buildings?

You might have heard of Solar Panels for Roofs, but have you heard of Solar panels for windows?

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 93 billion square of U.S real estate is owned by businesses and federal, state, and local governments. They account for 18% of U.S primary energy consumption. $190 billion is spent on energy consumption alone. Commercial buildings consume 35% of the electricity in the U.S and generate 826 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

Simply put, reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings would have a tremendous positive impact on our environment. The money saved from energy consumption can be used towards the growth of the U.S. Energy efficiency in commercial buildings would also create opportunities for people by offering needed jobs in construction and technology. But is there any way we can save energy other than installing solar panels? That’s where solar panels for windows come in! 

Solar Panels for Windows © Website / Ubiquitous Energy

Seeing how much energy a building(s) consumes, wouldn’t finding a way to reduce this energy consumption be a good idea? Forget saving energy; imagine buildings harvesting energy instead. Can you imagine an entire city filled with buildings that gather energy? Well, if it sounds impossible, I am happy to inform you that this technology is very much possible. In the year 2015, a team of Michigan State University researchers developed a technology that can turn transparent surfaces, from building windows to cellphones, into solar collecting services, without obstructing the view.

Solar Panels for Windows

But these researchers from Michigan State University aren’t the first to come up with the idea of solar panels for windows. Miles Barr, Vladimir Bulovic, and Richard Lunt, the founders of Ubiquitous Energy, a company dedicated to engineering transparent solar panels, came up with this idea in the year 2011. Now, this article isn’t going to talk about who found the history of this idea and how it came about. This article will examine what solar panels for windows are supposed to be and their infinite potential.

What Are Solar Panels For Windows?

Yongxi Li holds up a sample of a transparent solar cell © Robert Coelius / Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing.

Solar panels for windows are effective windows with built-in solar panels. Even though these solar windows resemble conventional windows, they feature photovoltaic glazing. Photovoltaic glazing converts sunlight into renewable electricity.

For the windows to become solar windows, they’re fitted with photovoltaic. This photovoltaic glazing contains solar cells that capture solar energy. The captured solar energy is then converted into electricity which will, in turn, be used to power the electrical appliances on the property.

Simply put, solar glass windows contain solar cells that convert sunlight into energy that can be used. This means that the light passing through the solar windows during daytime hours can provide a home with free renewable electricity. 

Now you might be wondering, what about the excess energy? Any and all extra energy will be delivered to the National Grid or stored in a solar battery. If you have a solar battery, you can keep the excess energy and use it later.

Solar panels for windows are a form of Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). This BIPV technology is integrated within the building and not installed onto the building. This means that homeowners and landlords looking to generate their own renewable energy can do so without the need for solar panels.

Solar panels For Windows

What Are The Benefits of Solar Panels for Windows?

When you think of a regular house and a corporate building, what do you find in common? Don’t they all have doors and windows? Imagine what could happen if the windows of all the buildings and houses in the world could save solar energy and convert the saved solar energy into electricity. What you get is unfathomable, right?

This is what makes see-through solar panels incredibly important. In modern society, glass is practically everywhere. It is estimated that there are 5 to 7 billion square meters of glass surfaces in the United States, ranging from your phone’s screen to skyscrapers. Can you imagine the amounts of electricity that could be generated if we could tap into all that power stored by almost 7 billion glass surfaces?

Generating electricity using free renewable solar energy is an efficient way to power your home. Solar panels aren’t practical for all property types. This is because conventional solar panels require a wide setup area and usually have a high initial cost. And because of these constraints, it is difficult to implement them in houses and metropolitan locations. On the other hand, transparent solar panels or solar panels for windows can easily be implemented in these areas. Solar panels for windows allow more people to generate their own free renewable electricity,

paving the way for net-zero energy buildings, thereby helping cities meet climate goals and targets.

The benefits of solar panels for windows don’t just stop with the free electricity source that will help lower your energy bills. Solar panels for windows have other benefits as well. They are

  • Solar panels for windows help to reduce indoor temperatures.

Solar windows are especially useful during summer. In the U.S, it can be extremely hot sometimes. Despite staying indoors, we can feel the scorching sun. This is because much of this heat is caused by the sunlight entering your windows. But in the case of solar windows, the solar windows absorb the heat and convert it into energy. Thus, the heat won’t get passed through the window. Now, not only do you have a cool summer, but you also don’t have to pay the electricity bill. 

  • Solar panels for windows blocks ultraviolet radiation

Did you know that ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause damage to your furniture? Solar windows help prevent these damages by not allowing a huge chunk of ultraviolet radiation from making its way into the property. This, in turn, helps you maintain a piece of nice furniture for quite a while, increasing your furniture’s lifespan and helping you be cost-effective. 

  • Solar panels for windows increase your privacy.
Two types of solar panels for windows © Website / Michigan University

Solar panels have a tint, making it harder to see through them. The picture above clearly shows what you can see via a solar window. While they are trying to create a solar window that is 100% clear, the solar windows created so far are pretty good and do increase your privacy because what you see through them is a blurred version of what is opposite or outside the window. 

  • Solar panels for windows reduce glare.

Don’t you find it annoying when you are watching the T.V, and you can see the reflection of the light bulb behind you? I don’t know about you, but I find glare extremely frustrating. But fret not because, with solar windows, glare can be reduced by marvelous levels.

  • Solar panels for windows have lower installation costs than solar panels

Replacing a window is much more straightforward than installing solar panels on your roof. As mentioned earlier, conventional solar panels require a wide setup area and usually have a high initial cost. Opting for windows solar panels will save time and a lot of money on installation costs. 

  • Solar panels for windows help you earn a lot.

Homeowners and landlords generating their own renewable electricity can earn payments as part of the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). They don’t have to worry about covering electricity charges when the place is not in use. The electricity charge will also be much lower. And to top all that, energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers are legally obliged to pay customers to generate their own electricity using renewable technology.

How Much Do Solar Panels for Windows Cost?

The technology that is solar panels for windows is emerging. Thus, the potential costs for this technology are still unclear. The estimated prices are around $200 to $300 per square meter of solar glass.

The Future of Solar Panels for Windows

Yes, this sounds groundbreaking and unbelievable, so it is not wrong if you think all this is only on paper. I am happy to inform you that you are wrong. They are not just on paper because transparent solar technologies are already popping up worldwide.

An example of this is the Copenhagen International School’s design. The school utilizes 12,000-hued but clear solar panels all over the building. These solar windows produce 200 MWh of energy annually. Did you know that is more than half of the energy the building consumes?

Apart from this being an amazing development, the building is extremely beautiful. Here are a few pictures.

Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller
Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller
Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller
Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller
Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller
Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller
Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller
Solar panels for windows – Copenhagen International School © Website / CF Moller

I mean, I am in awe at how astounding the place looks. 

Another example would be the Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building on the campus of Michigan State University. The biomedical and physical science building was upgraded by installing 100-square-feet transparent solar glass panels above the building’s entryway. These solar glass panels will generate enough electricity to power the lighting in its atrium.

Despite the technology of solar panels for windows being mindblowing, there are some obstacles standing in the way. Before the technology can be scaled up, scientists need to up its efficiency, as there is an efficiency/transparency tradeoff. 

Unfortunately, as of now, the more transparent the solar panel is, the less efficient it is. This is why see-through panels are not expected to exceed or replace the standard solar panels we’ve grown accustomed to. In any case, solar panels for windows, or the idea at least, have proved that technology can help humanity reach a sustainable and greener environment in the not-too-distant future. Here’s hoping that we live to see that very future! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put a solar panel in my window?

The quick answer is yes. Solar panels can indeed work through windshields or glass windows. However, is that enough for your solar panel to work? While you can install and utilize Solar panels through glass windows, their effect is considerably lesser than that of the solar panels installed outside. Also, they are not the same as Solar panels for windows.

What are the disadvantages of solar windows?

While Solar panels for windows sound groundbreaking but have considerable disadvantages and problems.
The disadvantage is that the cost of Solar windows is significantly higher than your regular windows.  

Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

Yes, they can. This is because photovoltaic panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power. Thus, even though they are most effective in direct sunlight, Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Did you know that rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt?

What are your thoughts on this bright new invention? Want us to write about other stuff as well? Let us know in the comments below!

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