Stained glass window captures solar energy

The colorful glass facades of a cathedral in Saskatchewan are embedded with solar cells. The windows are hooked up to the local power grid... just in case there's any juice left.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor

The Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, recently installed stained glass windows embedded with solar panels that will be connected to the local electrical grid.

Lux Gloria is one of several installations created by Toronto artist Sarah Hall. Her collection is designed to blend the aesthetics of hand-painted glass with the functionality of solar panels, Popular Science explains.

You can see more photos of the Solar/Photovoltaic collection -- which includes installations in elementary schools, universities, and other cathedrals in Canada and the U.S. -- on Hall’s website.

Once fully connected, Lux Gloria is expected to provide about 2,500 kilowatt-hours of energy a year. That’s about a third to a quarter the amount consumed by a typical Saskatoon home annually.

The energy will primarily power the cathedral -- offsetting its own power consumption from the regular grid. But if there's any left over, it'll be fed directly into the grid.

Though that’s unlikely. "This is, first and foremost, an art glass installation," says Jim Nakoneshny, the cathedral's facilities manager. Hall’s other work includes windows that produce power for use within their own buildings.

This particular set of windows, however, is the first to be connected to an electrical distribution network and incorporated into the building’s existing structure -- making it Saskatchewan’s first building-integrated photovoltaic system (BIPV). It's a trend that’s expected to grow as rooftop solar panels aren’t practical for many city buildings, including some churches.

The installation has silver, trapezoidal solar cells of different sizes sandwiched between layers of colored glass. CBC News explains:

Because the solar cells aren't transparent, Hall adds a high-tech "dichroic" glass to the back of the cells in some cases to make them colorful and reflective.

New solar technologies for windows that would allow them to be transparent and generate solar energy, such as spray-on photovoltaic coatings, are currently under development for use in building-integrated photovoltaics.

[CBC via PopSci]

Image: Tim Yaworski

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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