This week is an exciting one for those of us in the solar industry: Michigan University researchers have created what look like the world’s first fully transparent solar panels.
Using glass as a green energy harvester isn’t a new idea, but previous attempts didn’t really achieve ‘transparent’: the glass was dark and caused too much shade. When you consider what windows are usually for – letting in light – they were at best unpopular, at worst, pointless.
But this new system doesn’t compromise: it is completely transparent, letting in light as well as generating energy.
So how does it work?
Well, windows are transparent because they let most of the incoming light through, allowing you to see outside or inside. This is also why all the previous attempts to make solar power generating windows made them look dark and the rooms inside shady: the dark pigment absorbed the light so that it could be turned into solar power.
However, the researchers at MU took an alternate route: the glass itself is not a solar cell – it’s actually a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC). The TLSC is made of organic salts that absorb ultra-violet and infra-red energy, the kind of light you can’t see. So to the human eye, this looks like normal glass.
Tiny plastic channels line the edges of the “glass” and pick up this energy, which it then directs to tiny solar cells.
Unfortunately, however, they’ve got a while to go before they’re efficient enough to be the alternative to traditional solar panels. According to the University of Michigan, the TLSC has a rated efficiency of 1%, but the researchers think 5% should be possible.
For our homes, this will never be enough energy to make a noticeable difference to our energy bills. However, for offices with huge glass windows on every floor, we could be looking at the future.
Keep in mind that this idea is still in its infancy: it’ll be years before the technology behind transparent solar power will be efficient or affordable. But blending solar power into of everyday life is what A Shade Greener stands for, and this is certainly that.
It’ll be a while before we have offices powered by transparent tech, but solar power (and the massive savings that come with it) is available for your home right now. Our Free Solar Panels mean that you can start being kinder to the environment whilst enjoying an average of 50% off your household bills, and you won’t even have to pay for the solar equipment (that’s our job).
If that’s not futuristic energy, I’m not sure what is.