What you're looking at is a solar cell in front of that flower. Plastic solar cell company Konarka has developed a transparent cell which it is producing in limited numbers. The company intends to license the transparent cells for different applications, including integrating them into windows. Window maker Arch is already developing a window with this cell placed between two sheets of glass.
Another view of a transparent cell. The advantage of flexible solar cells is that they can be built into different products, such as portable gadget chargers and building materials. But these cells are not as efficient at converting sunlight to electricity as other materials and don't last as long as the cells on rooftop solar panels.
Plastic solar cell maker Konarka said on Tuesday that Arch Aluminum & Glass intends to use Konarka's solar cells for building-integrated photovoltaics. The cells can be different colors. This picture shows two of Arch's power-generating windows under development, one with a red solar cell and the semi-clear one.
Konarka intends to license its solar cells for use in solar chargers for gadgets, such as iPods or laptops. Its organic photovoltaic cells can generate electricity from indoor light. Here is a strip, held to outdoor light and generating 6 watts, which could be made into a charger.
Konarka also has a deal to test its cells with SkyShades, which makes shade structures for buildings and restaurants. The company this year is testing how much electricity solar cells integrated into its shade stands (seen on left) can generate and how well they stand up to weather. Electricity is stored in batteries.
There are other companies already doing building-integrated photovoltaics. Schuco of Germany makes building-integrated photovoltaic products like this solar blind, shown here at last fall's GreenBuild conference in Boston. The company says it has thousands of solar energy systems installed in Europe and Australia.
The Technische Universitat from Darmstadt in Germany created these "building-integrated photovoltaics as part of the Department of Energy-sponsored Solar Decathlon competition. The university was the overall winner.
The SolaRail from EPV Solar is encased made up of amorphous silicon thin-film cells encased in glass. It weighs 90 pounds and can generate 42 watts under peak conditions. It's used in a building in the Tribeca part of Manhattan where each balcony has 14 modules.