How See-Through Solar Panels Could Bring Renewable Energy to Your Windows
How See-Through Solar Panels Could Bring Renewable Energy to Your Windows
5:39

How See-Through Solar Panels Could Bring Renewable Energy to Your Windows

Climate
Speaker 1: Harnessing solar power has traditionally meant sticking big black solar panels on the roof of a building. But imagine if you could install solar panels that were completely invisible. That's the promise of solar windows. Totally see through solar panels that capture invisible light and turn it into green power for your home, your office building, maybe even your car, anywhere you can install a regular piece of glass. The benefits of solar [00:00:30] power are huge, but there are some downsides. These big dark panels take up space on your roof. They need to be installed in the right orientation, and even when you get all that right, they still operate at about 20% efficiency. But what if you could take advantage of solar energy without changing the design of your building or adding anything on top? What if your windows could just quietly harness solar power without you noticing California based company ubiquitous energy has [00:01:00] developed. What it says is the world's only patented transparent glass coating that generates energy from solar power all while making the glass look exactly like a normal window. Really, Speaker 2: The magic of transparent solar here is that we can embed solar technology into a product that already exists because you don't have to see it. Speaker 1: It's called UE power and it uses organic materials similar to pigments found in clothing and paints. These materials are spread [00:01:30] in a nanometer thin coating across the glass. So how does that actually produce power? Well, that leads us to this wigs. What the feature, traditional solar panels are designed to capture every single photon of light, but the coating used in UE power lets visible photons pass through the glass while capturing invisible light, specifically ultraviolet and infrared waves. That invisible light is then converted into electricity, which is directed [00:02:00] through a tiny wire that comes out of the window and connects to the buildings wiring just like a standard solar system. The result is a piece of glass that looks like a regular window, but one that can generate power. Speaker 2: They're in every other respect the same. We just have this little addition, which for us is, you know, nanometers of, uh, of a coating. And we use that to make electricity in addition to doing all the other things that you expect from your window. It's just any other solar system. It happens to be vertical instead of horizontal. Speaker 1: [00:02:30] The technology was developed by scientists at M I T and Michigan State University back in 2010, and that team went on to found ubiquitous energy. Right now the windows are about 5% efficient and the company is working on an r and d cell that's about 10% efficient. That might sound low, but compare that to traditional solar panels, which operate at about 20%. And these ones are clear. Ubiquitous says they can also be manufactured in the same way as regular windows using [00:03:00] the same equipment. Ubiquitous energy says, making the shift to powered windows could have a huge impact on the way we build in the future. Speaker 2: Buildings are our huge contributor to carbon footprints around the world and we continue to build. Building stock is expected, I think, to double by 2060, which is a mind boggling number. It's the equivalent of adding a New York City to the planet every month for 40 years. It's a lot of glass, a lot of opportunity to produce [00:03:30] electricity. Speaker 1: Right now these windows are small, just 14 by 20 inches per panel, but the company already has plans to manufacture floor to ceiling windows. Ubiquitous energy says its commercial windows will cost about 30 to 40% more than standard glass, but with tax incentives, that price can come down further. Eventually, it wants users to get a return on their investment within 10 years. Alongside its commercial panels, the company has also partnered with window [00:04:00] manufacturer Anderson. For residential homes, these windows would be designed to work as standalone or alongside traditional solar panels as part of a larger system. And one day ubiquitous says its glass could be used to make self-powered smart windows that can react to real world conditions. Speaker 2: It's rain and close the window, or it's hot inside. It's cool outside. Open the window for some mechanized venting. So there are some really cool things that you can do once you bring power to the window [00:04:30] and we're able to do that, um, using completely embedded renewable energy without touching the grid. Speaker 1: For now, ubiquitous has completed 12 pilot installations around the world as it scales up plans for its own production facilities in California. As for the future, the company has its eyes on a lot more than just windows, like cell phones. That could work even when your battery is dead. Speaker 2: It would be amazing to be able to put it out in the sun and, and get an emergency call or an emergency text out. Um, it would be amazing if all those parked cars [00:05:00] sitting in parking lots, uh, the ones that aren't under solar canopies are producing electricity. Uh, and so I think of a new world where anything can produce power as long as it sees the sun and you don't even have to see it. Speaker 1: So what do you think? Would you want these kind of windows on a new house? Or where would you like to see solar glass next? Let me know in the comments. And while you're here, be sure to check out my mate Jesse's recent video on other cool sustainable tech that we are keeping our eyes on right now. In the meantime, [00:05:30] I'm Claire Riley for what? The Future Bringing You The World of Tomorrow, today.

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