See-through solar energy isn’t anything new. The technology was actually invented several years ago. However, recent reviews of the technology have put it back in the spotlight as communities look for newer ways to put solar power to use.
Richard Lunt, the inventor of the see-through solar technology, had this to say about his solar cells and their energy-generating capabilities.
“We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”
Solar energy certainly isn’t anything new, either. Roof-top solar panels and vast fields of solar arrays have been providing renewable solar energy for many years now, and the technology associated with these methods have celebrated their own respective strides. However, solar technology in densely populated urban areas is far less common, and it has its own set of unique challenges when compared to other solar power applications. Urban areas don’t offer the kind of open land that makes solar fields practical, and most of the rooftop real-estate you find in cities aren’t conducive to bolting on solar panels.
But these cities do contain a lot of glass. In fact, it’s estimated that the United States is home to approximately 5 to 7 billion square meters of glass. If that glass was combined with transparent solar cells and used in conjunction with roof-top panels, calculations suggest that it could come pretty close to meeting the country’s power demands. Urban cities would benefit even more from this practice.
It’s important to understand that transparent solar cells aren’t as efficient as traditional roof-top panels. Lunt’s team reports that his cells are currently operating at a little over 5% efficiency. This is only about 1/3 of the performance of a standard commercial panel. But again, when combined with the sheer amount of glass used in our buildings, it translates to a lot of additional power.
Part of the answer to increasing the effectiveness of the see-through cells is to design future buildings in ways that solar harnessing can be maximized. While we still have a long way to go, it’s reassuring to know that solar power is still making strides and society is slowly decreasing its dependence on fossil fuels.