Solar panels for double pane windows

January 14, 2012

Long live science. If a new technology being developed collaboratively by MIT and Michigan State University takes shape, a new solar film for windows could save you money on monthly utility bills, as it makes electricity to run your household.

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Published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, the paper titled "Transparent, near-infrared organic Photovoltaic solar cells for window energy scavenging applications" had as one of its primary goals to overcome the requirement of needing a large surface area on which to create solar energy.

Richard Lunt and Vladimir Bulovic, the paper's authors stated their proposed solution like this, "The obstacle of large-area deployment could be overcome with development of a low-cost, transparent, photovoltaic (PV) technology that can be integrated onto window panes in homes, skyscrapers and automobiles, enhancing the functionality of already utilized transparent surfaces."

The idea is to place PV film in between the glass of an ordinary, double pane window. The film is designed to harness the sun's energy and convert it to electricity; and because it is transparent, it is should not cut down on the amount of light entering your home. At some point, the film may also be incorporated into low-E coatings or decorative window tints.

Energy-producing double pane windows for home and business

Currently, solar-power generating technology is expensive, because it requires specialty panels that are labor and material intensive. They require expensive, professional installation. Equipping a house with solar windows might be cheaper, because it eliminates the need for extra equipment.

By outfitting the many glass surface areas on houses, cars and businesses with energy-capturing, solar film, the possibility of generating enough renewable energy to power your life increases exponentially. Although, even if entire neighborhoods are turned into solar arrays with PV-film windows, the electricity generated from this method will be minimal compared to the massive amounts drawn from the current electricity grid, suggest Lunt and Bulovic.

One question still unanswered is how a window with PV film would attach to the electrical system of the house. Whether this is a major breakthrough in solar technology for home construction, or another passing phase of pipe-dream tech fixes remains to be seen. Only time, more research and development will tell.

Still, if you're actively engaged in finding new ways to lower your carbon footprint, these glass films may someday help. At the very least, energy-generating windows could power some applicances and meet everyday household needs.

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