What are Solar Glass Windows?
A solar window with photovoltaic glazing is an emerging solar technology which could enable homes to generate their own renewable electricity through the windows or structure of their home, not just from panels on the roof. The solar market is continuing to evolve and many manufacturers are looking beyond the traditional roof-mounted solar panels, but is it a viable option for your home yet?
What are solar glass windows, and how do they work?
Solar windows is the term often given to see through solar panels which resemble glass panes. The panes include the solar PV technology needed to generate electricity from the sun. In theory, this would mean that we could replace our standard glass windows with versions that also function as solar panels, maximising the renewable energy generated from our homes.
The technology is often referred to as building-integrated photovoltaics of BIPV, but this term can also be applied to solar roof tiles or roof-integrated panels. These technologies are seen by some as more aesthetically pleasing and easier to maintain than adding solar panels to a roof.
The reason why we are not installing solar windows is that at the moment the photovoltaic glass being produced is not transparent so would be ineffective as a straight replacement for window glass. If the glass is made to appear transparent, it will not be able to absorb enough energy to generate electricity at any meaningful level.
For the industry to produce see-through solar panels which generate electricity from the sun, this is likely to require nanotechnology or quantum dot technology. This would allow light through the window while still generating electricity as the energy would be absorbed through the quantum dots.
While the concept of the see-through solar windows is not ready for mass commercial production yet, photovoltaic glass are in production and being used in the construction of buildings all over the world. Solar or photovoltaic glass is used in the construction of buildings all over the world. From huge commercial buildings, bus stops and petrol forecourts to being used as the walls and roofs of conversatories, greenhouses, skylights and facades, you can incorporate solar glass into your home and maximise your electricity generation.
Photovoltaic glass manufacturers
Some manufacturers have made big strides in the production of solar glass.
Polysolar UK describes their solar glass as 'practically clear'. Polysolar UK use thin film photovoltaic (PV) technology which enables them to produce cells for solar PV panels that are entirely transparent or opaque.
Onyx Solar is an international manufacturer and supplier of photovoltaic glass for use in commercial and domestic buildings such as facades, curtain walls, atriums, canopies and terrace floor.
Solar glass efficiency and cost
The latest design (grey-tinted) by Polysolar produces efficiency levels between 12-15%, which is more than many standard solar panels on the market. The previous orange-tinted version had a lower efficiency but cost around £175 per square metre, while the new version is around £250 per square metre.
Solar panel blinds
Another similar technology which is near production is the solar panel blind. Rather than the window pane itself generating electricity, blinds with solar PV cells have been developed which can be hung on the interior or exterior of a window. They will automatically rotate to follow the position of the sun throughout the day, maximising energy generation.
Are solar windows right for your home?
While solar windows aren't currently available, the technology is improving all the time. However, solar glass is available which can be used in the construction of conservatories, facades or skylights.
If you're interested in generating your own renewable electricity at home, it's worth noting that the cost of installing traditional solar panels is lower than ever and efficiency levels are at their highest.
To get free solar panel quotes from MCS certified (or equivalent) installers near you, send us an enquiry today. We'll put you in touch with up to 4 approved installers in your area who will provide you with their most competitive, no-obligation quote.