Last year, a start-up in Maryland invented a way to coat glass conventional glass windows with a see-through film that generates renewable energy. Its latest breakthrough, made possible by the help of the US Department of Energy, is 'invisible' wiring that preserves its aesthetics.
On Thursday, New Energy Technologies announced a new complementary conductive wiring system that will transport electricity over glass windows laid out in a fine grid-like pattern that's virtually transparent. United States Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scientists collaborated on the technology.
Architectural glass has can be found on many modern buildings. Apple has become renowned for encapsulating its stores in massive glass panels, and large glass windows have shrouded skyscrapers for decades. The business concept behind New Energy's system is to retrofit these conventional glass structures.
Windows retrofitted with the film would generate energy from the sun’s visible light as well as artificial illumination, such as the fluorescent lighting. (See here to read a study about the SolarWindow process published in the American Institute of Physics.)
Scientists at the company successfully sprayed electricity generating coatings onto lightweight polyethylene terephthalate plastics in its laboratory last year, and have since begun to fabricate larger modules. Aside from being designed for aesthetics, the wiring system reduces resistive losses for more efficient power production.
"It's very exciting that we've not only achieved an important milestone with respect to the size of our SolarWindow, but we are now able to confidently tackle two of the most important factors to eventual commercialization - the structure and transparency of the wiring system which transports the electricity generated on see-through glass, and overall performance," said Mr. John A. Conklin, president and CEO of New Energy Technologies.
New Energy Technologies faces competition from a Norwegian company called EnSol AS, which is likewise developing a thin-film-solar coating that adheres to building facades. Some other potential competitors are Chinese solar glassmaker Chin Hua and Pythagoras Solar; both manufacture types of photovoltaic glass.