A Window For Solar

California company Ubiquitous Energy makes, and converts, solar windows.

Instead of using the power of a magnifying glass to burn something, these California kids saw the energy behind the science.

Ubiquitous Energy, the Redwood City, Ca., developer of transparent solar technology, installed what it deems the world’s first “truly transparent solar window façade” at its company headquarters January 30.

Approximately 100 square feet of transparent solar windows were installed as an exterior facing window façade, replacing the previous single pane windows. The new facade “demonstrates the ability to generate clean, renewable energy while maintaining aesthetic beauty, high transparency, and color neutrality,” said a Ubiquitous press release announcing the installation at the end of January.

It’s yet another form of renewable energy that exemplifies modern sustainability methods—which often involve the linking of multiple environmentally-friendly systems. Think LEED building standards, which usually integrate smart climate controls with things like lighting and battery storage to create a systemically efficient building. In this case, each double pane window is glazed into a fiberglass frame. The windows produce electricity that is being used to power the LED lighting in an adjacent room, as well. The façade is also connected to an energy management system that monitors and logs its power generation. This method is not short on attention; featured in TED Talks and articles abound over the last five years.

“Not only did we improve the thermal insulation in the conference room by replacing the single pane windows, but also our Ubiquitous Energy windows generate enough electricity to power the lighting in the conference room. We are thrilled with the outcome of this installation and look forward to completing other installation projects in the near future,” said Ubiquitous Energy Co-founder and CTO Miles Barr. “I have been looking at BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) since 1999 and this is the best thing I have ever seen in BIPV,” said Scott Thomsen, former Guardian Industries President.

Featured in CNN’s Project Planet column March 30, Ubiquitous Energy’s coating is highly transparent and color neutral, and is applied directly on glass using standard equipment. The transparent solar coating selectively absorbs and converts non-visible light (ultraviolet and infrared) to electricity while maintaining visible transparency. It also doubles as a low-E and solar control coating in addition to its electricity generation by blocking infrared light that is commonly known as solar heat. The transparent solar coating can be applied to vertical surfaces of buildings turning traditional windows into aesthetically pleasing, highly energy efficient, and electricity generating windows that are desired by architects, designers, and occupants.

The transparent photovoltaic manufacturer says it “envisions a world in which every pane of glass generates renewable electricity from sunlight, dramatically reducing the carbon footprint of buildings—among the world’s biggest energy consumers—without compromising the transparent, vibrant experience occupants expect from their windows.” After nearly a decade of R&D during its startup stage, UE has developed an award-winning technology in its aesthetically acceptable, electricity-generating alternative to traditional windows. Originally spun out of MIT, Ubiquitous Energy now produces its transparent solar cells in Silicon Valley.

 

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