Harnessing Transparent Solar Power with Windows

The relationship between energy consumption of buildings and the electrical grid is changing. For the new construction and retrofit building markets creating more energy efficient and carbon neutral options are essential due to building code regulations and increasing consumer demand for climate-friendly options. From sustainable construction materials to designing with renewable energy top of mind, innovations in areas like solar are redefining what is possible in buildings today.   

Some unique approaches currently being designed into building or renovation plans are expanding beyond the use of traditional technologies. There are higher energy efficient systems for lighting, HVAC, and water use, however there are not many options for increasing the renewable energy generation side of the equation besides traditional solar panels.  

Builders and renovators that keep their pulse on innovation in the market have the power to fight climate change, meet increasingly demanding building codes and consumer demands by being early adopters in new approaches for renewable energy in the design of their projects. Going beyond traditional solar panels and incorporating solar technology into windows, for example, would help turn any building’s façade into a vertical solar array to provide or increase the amount of renewable energy that can be generated on-site.  

In order to make solar technology that can be used for windows we first must understand how it works. It must be integrated into a building’s windows to harness energy directly from the sun, the same way a traditional solar panel absorbs sunlight energy and converts some of that energy into useful electricity. The difference for windows is that the solar technology needs to be transparent and have the same visibility of a traditional windows.  

This solar technology for windows can be connected to the building’s energy management to offset energy consumption elsewhere or it can be connected directly to the grid so that the generated clean electricity can be sold back to the utility or grid. These windows could also power electric blinds, security cameras, or automated window mechanics such as venting. Another major benefit is that with windows that generate renewable energy the energy efficiency rating of the building by accreditations such as LEED can be significantly improved. 

Studies have shown that aesthetically pleasing energy efficient buildings with renewable energy generation on-site attract customers that will pay more rent, and these buildings will have higher value. Furthermore, with 20 billion square feet of glass that is installed in buildings globally each year, windows that generate renewable energy can drastically improve solar adoption where power is needed, where people live and work.  

By converting the world’s building windows into windows that generate renewable energy, up to 10% of global carbon emissions can be offset. As new technologies are advancing and virtually all industries are racing to deal with the impact of climate change with new solutions, being educated on and adopting emerging innovations that are sustainable will be a key factor for builders to be successful in the climate age, and to leave their mark on the future by preserving it for generations to come. 

About the Expert: Veeral Hardev is VP of Strategy at Ubiquitous Energy, a next-generation technology company that provides energy efficient, transparent solar windows to both commercial and residential customers. Hardev has over a decade of experience commercializing novel nano-materials products for the electronics industry. This includes his time at Nanosys, Inc. where he led materials and business development, and product management. Hardev holds an MBA from the Berkeley Haas School of Business, and bachelor’s degrees in Materials Science and Economics from UCLA. 

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