Solar Windows

If you picture the glittering glass skyscrapers that dot America’s cities, it becomes clear why the idea of using that vast window space to generate solar power is gaining traction. In 2009 alone, 437 million square feet of windows were installed in non-residential buildings in the United States. That many square feet of standard solar panels would generate around 4 gigawatts of power, roughly the total installed solar capacity in the U.S. today.

Such potential is leading engineers and entrepreneurs to more intensively explore the idea of turning windows into solar-power producers. Solar windows, a subset of the growing field known as building-integrated photovoltaics, are based on the concept that a window doesn’t need to be 100 percent transparent, and a solar panel doesn’t need to be 100 percent opaque. Several ways currently exist to turn a window into a power-generating device, from thin-film silicon, to dye-sensitized solar cells, to tiny organic cells.

New Energy SolarWindow

Some experts think the field is poised to take off, and although the world may not see an all-solar skyscraper for a while, a number of companies are promising commercial-scale production of various solar windows in the next two years. Still, the cost and technical hurdles facing this fledgling technology could get in the way of a future filled with towering, emission-free power plants. Like other cutting edge alternative energy sources, energy-generating windows could become a mainstay of a greener future in the coming decades, or they could prove to be impractical and produce only a fraction of solar-powered electricity.

“The challenge is whether you can get the cost down and the electricity generation up,” says Sarah Kurtz, a scientist with the U.S. government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado. “There are lots of different schemes and strategies, and creativity will be the name of the game. If you can get the cost to the place where those windows don’t really cost any more than conventional windows, it obviously makes sense to go ahead and have your windows generate electricity.”

Building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV, is moving slowly, with solar panels now doubling as walls, shingles, and other parts of buildings. MJ Shiao, a senior analyst at GTM Research, a market analysis group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says the market still represents only around 1 percent (a few hundred megawatts last year) of solar powerbeing installed around the world, and that’s mostly rooftops or semi-opaque skylights. Windows pose a greater challenge than rooftops or walls because of the need to actually see through them. So far, very few examples of skyscrapers with solar windows exist; the highest profile site is the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago, where Pythagoras Solar installed a small prototype in 2011.

Several technologies have emerged for solar windows, though none have yet taken off in a meaningful way. But one company that says it is close to commercial deployment is New Energy Technologies, based in Columbia, Maryland. It has developed a method for spraying tiny organic solar cells onto windows in a see-through coating that lets in 40 to 80 percent of sunlight, absorbing the rest. With 10 patent filings pending and no commercial prototypes yet in the field, the company is divulging few details. But the spray-on method could reduce production costs dramatically. Recently, the company announced the development of a large solar cell — 170 square centimeters — made in collaboration with NREL, which could make adding the cells to windows even cheaper.
Despite the company’s progress, its technologies highlight one of the major obstacles to solar windows: efficiency. The rate at which a solar panel turns the sun’s energy into electricity is a concern for all types of solar power, but especially for windows. “The challenge is that the light you see, if you absorb that and use it to make electricity, that means you don’t have a window anymore,” says Kurtz.

To date, the record efficiency for an organic solar cell is 10 percent, and production line efficiencies never get up to the record levels. While traditional solar panels are now producing power with 15 to 20 percent efficiency, efficiency levels for solar windows of roughly 5 percent are unlikely to be economical.

“Look at it from a physicist’s point of view,” Kurtz says. “A solar panel that’s put out in the desert in a nice location with lots of sunshine may have something on the order of a one-year payback. If that [panel] sits out there for another 20 years, you get that much return on your investment for society.” If a solar window can only achieve one-third the efficiency of a solar panel, then it will take three times as long to pay back the investment.

But some experts think it’s just a matter of time before efficiencies rise high enough — and costs drop low enough — to make solar windows a sound investment. Andreas Athienitis, a professor of mechanical engineering at Concordia University in Montreal who is working on technologies for solar windows, says more mature technologies like thin-film silicon might represent a short- and mid-term solution for BIPV, until organic cells can catch up and meet long-term goals. “I think eventually it will be a big market,” he says, but the adoption is slow because “it’s a disruptive technology.”


Another company using organic solar cells, Heliatek, based in Germany, has panels that can achieve 8 percent efficiency. The company’s organic cells use molecules called oligomers rather than traditionally used polymers — basically, short rather than long collections of atoms — which means cheaper, more precise application of the cells. Heliatek says it expects that within five years it can manufacture solar cell windows in the 50 cents-per-watt range, making them competitive with other solar technology.

Spain-based Onyx Solar offers a number of solar glass technologies. However, its windows only allow up to 30 percent of sunlight through, so a lot of light inside the building is lost. In varying formations, though, Onyx says its amorphous-silicon solar glass — a type of thin-film silicon cell — can get up to 9-percent efficiency.

But such efficiencies don’t take into account some of the practical limitations of actually covering a skyscraper with solar windows.

“The optimal installation for solar is you want it to be facing south, you want a slight tilt to it, and you want good solar access, so you don’t want anything to shade those panels,” says Shiao, of GTM Research. “The problem with skyscrapers is suddenly you’re putting them in vertical orientation, there’s only one south side to the building, and chances are that skyscraper is next to another skyscraper, which is going to shade that side of the building.”

Such challenges have left Shiao and other experts skeptical that solar windows will have a bright future. “There are a lot of technical and design challenges, which quite honestly aren’t going to be fixed,” Shiao says. “It doesn’t make sense almost at any cost, unless you’re getting the panels for free or something, to really install that system on those big structures.”

These obstacles haven’t deterred numerous fledgling companies. Oxford Photovoltaics, spun out of research done at Oxford University, says that computer modeling of a 700-foot skyscraper in Texas suggests thatcovering it in solar windows would generate up to 5.3 megawatt-hours per day of electricity. That’s enough to power 165 homes, and it could provide a skyscraper with sufficient power for all its lighting.

Oxford’s technology involves a type of cell for solar windows called a dye-sensitized solar cell. Dye-sensitized cells use a photo-electrochemical process to generate power and can be made relatively cheaply. Oxford’s transparent panels are so far getting around 6 percent efficiency, and the company hopes to bring them to market late next year.

Nazir Kherani, a professor of engineering at the University of Toronto, believes that the economics of solar windows may be most compelling for new construction with a focus on net-zero energy buildings — not for retrofitting existing skyscrapers. “With sufficient attention to design and seamless engineering, it is conceivable that we may see such buildings gradually evolving into net-zero communities, villages, and towns,” Kherani says.

Several companies involved in solar window production say they are within a year or two of scaling up or bringing a product to market, and they maintain that cell efficiencies will continue to rise and prices continue to fall, as is the case with solar panels.

What continues to drive the inventors and entrepreneurs involved in developing solar windows is the enormous potential for energy savings. Buildings accounted for 41 percent of all electricity consumption in the U.S. in 2010, more than transportation or industry. Taking a bite out of that with power-generating windows is an alluring target.

“I wouldn’t write off the possibility,” Kurtz says. “How soon will it happen? I find it’s really dangerous to predict the future.”

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The Sun Rises on Solar Power

The Sun Rises on Solar Power -- Ford Focus Electric -- © Westend61/SuperStock
by Denise DiFulco
The price of solar electric systems has fallen rapidly in recent years, making solar energy more accessible than ever. In 2010, the installed cost of residential and commercial solar photovoltaic power systems fell by 17 percent from the previous year, falling an additional 11 percent in the first half of 2011, according to a report by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). So is now the time to take the plunge?
Well, such statistics don’t mean that solar power systems are cheap. The average cost nationwide last year was $6.20 per watt, says Ryan Wiser, a Berkeley Lab scientist. An average-size home (about 2,000 square feet) generally requires a 5-kilowatt system — approximately a $31,000 investment. “There’s a large up-front cost, but there’s also economies of scale,” Wiser says. “The cost per unit on a smaller system will be higher.” So if you opt for more power — say, a 10-kilowatt system — the price per watt will be substantially lower. Your circumstances could also help: It’s cheaper to install a system on new construction versus an existing home. There are several ways to defray the overall costs. One is through state and federal solar energy rebates. A list of current rebates is available through theDatabase of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Another is by entering a net metering agreement with your utility company. When your system generates more power than you need, the excess returns to the electricity grid and your meter runs backward. This allows you to receive full retail credit for the power your system generates. A way to avoid up-front costs altogether is to lease. Leasing has become a popular option in recent years, Wiser says, with more than half of new installed systems being leased through companies such as SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity. How much you can potentially save on electricity depends upon many factors, including the size of the system you choose and your current retail electricity rate. Online calculators, such as Berkeley Lab’s Home Energy Saver, can help you make that determination. They also can help assess other ways to make your home more energy efficient, which is the best first step to take when switching to solar power. “We tell people they really need to look at their building energy use,” says Sherri Shields, a spokeswoman for the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida. “The more energy efficient you make your home, the less equipment you need to put on your roof.” If you’re purchasing your own solar panels, as opposed to leasing, it’s best to hire a local solar contractor or an electrical contractor that specializes in solar power. The contractor will take into account many considerations, including how much energy your home uses and potential sites for the panels. The type of roof you have, which direction your home faces and even nearby trees and other shade-producing obstructions all need to be factored in as well when designing a system. “It’s not just something cookie-cutter, out of the box,” Shields explains. Other things to keep in mind? Check with your insurance company to make sure your system will be covered under your homeowners insurance. Sometimes, a separate rider to the policy is required. Also, be sure all components carry the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) mark for quality and safety, and inquire about a truss-mounted system for roof panels — especially if you live in an area prone to severe weather. “We have to be especially careful in Florida,” Shields says. “If it’s not part of the roof structure, it’s going to come falling off.” Still in need of more information? A good basic guide for getting started is also available here, through the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. So put your plan together, go solar, and expect many sunny days in your future.

Albuquerque Solar Power

Article by Johnny Solar

Solar Power Crawls Across The South West

Solar power is crawling across this country, some how we need to speed this up, places like Phoenix, Albuquerque, Miami, Phoenix, and such have not embraced the need for switching their power source especially when comes to the residential homes.

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The impact when the people of this country start taking into their own hands the way and the power source that their homes run will change the direction this country is going dramatically, and that is what needs to happen, when the rest of the world sees this, they will follow suit and the effect will be like a tsunami.
There is a great deal of information and enthusiasm today about the development and increased production of our global energy needs from alternative energy sources. Solar energy, wind power and moving water are all traditional sources of alternative energy that are making progress. The enthusiasm everyone shares for these developments has in many ways created a sense of complacency that our future energy demands will easily be met.
Alternative energy is an interesting concept when you think about it. In our global society, it simply means energy that is produced from sources other than our primary energy supply: fossil fuels. Coal, oil and natural gas are the three kinds of fossil fuels that we have mostly depended on for our energy needs, from home heating and electricity to fuel for our automobiles and mass transportation.
The problem is, fossil fuels are non-renewable. They are limited in supply and will one day be depleted. There is no escaping this conclusion. Fossil fuels formed from plants and animals that lived hundreds of millions of years ago and became buried way underneath the Earth’s surface where their remains collectively transformed into the combustible materials we use for fuel.
In fact, the earliest known fossil fuel deposits are from the Cambrian Period about 500 million years ago, way before the dinosaurs emerged onto the scene. This is when most of the major groups of animals first appeared on Earth. The later fossil fuels — which provide more substandard fuels like peat or lignite coal (soft coal) — began forming as late as five million years ago in the Pliocene Period. At our rate of consumption, these fuels cannot occur fast enough to meet our current or future energy demands.
Despite the promise of alternative energy sources — more appropriately called renewable energy, collectively they provide only about seven percent (7%) of the world’s energy needs (Source: Energy Information Agency). This means that fossil fuels, along with nuclear energy — a controversial, non-renewable energy source — are supplying 93% of the world’s energy resources.
Nuclear energy, which is primarily generated by splitting atoms, only provides six percent (6%) of the world’s energy supplies. And it is not likely to be a major source of world energy consumption because of public pressure and the relative dangers associated with unleashing the power of the atom. Yet, governments such as the United States see its vast potential and are placing pressure on the further exploitation of nuclear energy.
The total world energy demand is for about 400 quadrillion British Thermal Units — or BTUs — each year (Source: US Department of Energy). That’s 400,000,000,000,000,000 BTUs! A BTU is roughly equal to the energy and heat generated by a match. Oil, coal and natural gas supply nearly 88 % of the world’s energy needs, or about 350 quadrillion BTUs. Of this amount, oil is king, providing about 41 percent of the world’s total energy supplies, or about 164 quadrillion BTUs. Coal provides 24% of the world’s energy, or 96 quadrillion BTUs, and natural gas provides the remaining 22%, or 88 quadrillion BTUs.
It’s not so much that we mine fossil fuels for our consumption any more than it is to mine salt or tap water supplies way underground. The problems occur when we destroy ecosystems while mining it and while using it. Certainly, if there were a way that fossil fuels can be mined and used in ways that do not harm our ecology, then every thing will be okay… in a perfect world. What makes our world perfect is that, it really isn’t perfect according to definition. It is natural, with all things interdependent on each other to live, grow and produce. Fossil fuel mining and oil production can and has caused irreparable damage to our environment.

About the Author
Johnny Solar
Born in Phoenix, AZ
Solar soluton developer

Energy Corporation Association
Affiliated Green Earth Guide

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Wine And Chocolate Create Solar Power

Article by Clean Solar, Inc

What do you get when you mix chocolate and wine? In the case of Clean Solar, Inc., you get solar. Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Randy Zechman, is the founder of City Chocolate Fountains (the largest chocolate fountain rental company in the United States). Jeff Ritchey is a San Jose native and wine guru. He is a wine consultant for Pichetti Winery, San Saba winery, and has two of his own labeled wines. Together, they are the co-founders of Clean Solar, a Silicon Valley solar installer and integrator.

Randy Zechman will readily admit that he is a serial entrepreneur. Just over a year ago, with two successful businesses in his portfolio: City Chocolate Fountains and World 2 Do, Inc., Zechman was ready for a new challenge. Zechman and a friend of eight years, Jeff Ritchey, an award-winning winemaker, regularly attended a monthly Bay Area speaker series with a group of friends. After every speaker they would end up at a local restaurant debating the subject matter of that night’s speech, global warming and the health of the earth were often the center of those debates, which resulted in them seeing Al Gore speak at the State of the Valley conference in early 2007.

After seeing Al Gore speak on solutions for protecting our planet, Zechman began to research the solar power industry. Ritchey, while continuing to grow his label, Sensorium Wines, was also showing increased interest in the green movement, realizing that green technology was an ideal fit with his knowledge in geology, winemaking and construction.

Zechman knew that the scientific and construction skill set that Ritchey could bring to the table would be the perfect compliment to his business and marketing skills, which led him to approach Ritchey about starting a solar power company.

Zechman and Ritchey met weekly for 6 months, discussing the in and outs of the business and making sure that their ambitions would not get in the way of their friendship. “We had a heart to heart regarding our friendship versus business. We both believed we could manage both and that our friendship would not get in the way.” says Zechman.

“We’ve been friends for eight years and never thought about getting into business with each other, but this presented the right opportunity. With the market timing, our passion for doing something good, Randy’s sales and marketing experience and my technical and construction abilities, we figured it was a natural fit.” says Ritchey.

Clean Solar Inc. quickly became a reality and is now the Bay Area’s leading solar installation company. The fuel for their business growth is in the form of state rebates through the 10 year, .4 billion California Solar Initiative. While silicon is still in short supply, the rebates offer customers a chance to significantly lower the installation cost of a solar power system. Zechman and Ritchey are committed to staying ahead of the curve and being early adopters of new solar technology as it comes on line. “We want the Clean Solar team to stay abreast of the latest advancements in technology, maintain certifications, and educate ourselves in order to provide our customers with the knowledge they need as a solar owner.” says Zechman.

About the Author

Isaac Riggins is a solar consultant for Clean Solar, Inc. He can be reached at 888-551-7652 or

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A company people can trust for solar power driven appliances in Australia

Article by Solar Gain

The need for using devices driven by alternative energy sources has become imperative. The main reason is that the stock of fossil fuels are depleting fast. The excessive usage of conventional energy driven devices have also led to the pollution of environment to a great extent. That is why a lot of people are resorting to solar energy driven products.

As a matter of fact, the Solar Power driven appliances help a person in saving his energy costs. In the last few years the government in various countries has become more proactive in promoting and marketing Solar Energy driven devices. A number of car companies have also come up with their version of solar power driven cars. Unlike the fossil fuels the solar energy is not likely to come to an end in the near future.

The residents of Australia who are thinking of switching to using solar power driven appliances can use the various products of the company Solargain. It is a company that specializes in making water heating products. In fact it has over two decades of experiences in making water heating solutions. The company boasts of more than a million satisfied clients all over the globe.

The Solar Water Heaters of this company make use of the energy of the Sun to heat up water quickly and effectively. The solar water heaters of the company comprise of high performance roof mounted solar energy collectors and avant-garde hot water storage tanks. One can obtain highest government incentives by buying its water heating products. Its products come with the assurance of top notch quality so the owners can use them for years without worrying. Most of its products come with a long 7 to 10 years warranty.

Solargain’s unique Open Loop Hot Water system is liked a lot by the customers and users. One should buy these solar water heaters if he leaves in a no frost area. In this setup the mains water flows in the solar collector and gets heated by the sun. The hot water gets stored to the storage tanks and the people can use it later as per their need.

Australian market’s most technologically advanced water heater solution is the company’s Closed Loop system. This can be used by the users who live in areas that undergo chilly weather and snowfall. The people living in hard water regions can also benefit from using these Solar Panels. These water heaters are quite easy to install.

The main advantage of buying a solar water heating solution from the company is that the buyers can avail its same day Hot Water service. It gives the clients the best value for their money. The customers can avail this service just by making a phone call to the company representatives. The company has a team of veteran and professional technicians.

About the Author

Solar Gain is author of this article on Solar power.
Find more information about Solar energy here.

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