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Building-integrated white solar photovoltaic modules, see-through solar window coatings

Building-integrated white solar photovoltaic modules, see-through solar window coatings

Surface appearance, texture, color as well as additional building functionalities have an important role in product differentiation and remain central to the successful development of new, cost-effective and well integrated solar systems. Modern integrated photovoltaic technologies allow the transformation of buildings in units that consume as well as produce energy. Well integrated photovoltaic systems will not only allow incorporation of energy generating devices but also take care of the architectural environment and building aesthetics and conventions.  Conversion will be possible at a faster pace subject to marginal costs upgrades, maintenance of specifications and compliance with existing norms and standards.  With this approach, PV modules will eventually become fully fledged building construction elements.

Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) has developed the world's first white solar modules. This innovative technology is particularly attractive to the building industry where solar elements can blend in and become virtually hidden energy sources. Applications in the consumer goods sector are also expected. Currently, the market lacks photovoltaic (PV) products specifically designed to be integrated into buildings. Most PV modules, built to maximize sunlight absorption, appear blue-black. This appearance, caused by the presence of cells and connections, is visually unaesthetic and this complicates the acceptance of PV by built-environment professionals.
For solar elements, white is a particularly interesting color, as it is widely used for its elegance, versatility and freshness. Despite of this demand, no one was ever able to accomplish a truly white solar module; believing that it was impossible as most of the light is reflected, contrary to the requirements of all solar panels. CSEM has developed a new technology offering white solar modules, with no visible cells and connections, combining a solar cell technology able to convert infrared solar light into electricity and a selective scattering filter, which scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light. Any solar technology based on crystalline silicon can now be used to manufacture white - and colored - modules. The technology can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces. That a white surface will reach lower temperature under the sun is an additional advantage. The visible light being reflected does not contribute to heat, thus a white solar cell is expected to work at temperatures 20-30° lower than standard PV modules. White PV modules can also contribute to increase energy savings in buildings by keeping inner spaces cooler and reducing air conditioning costs. It is an easy, adaptable and low-cost solution. Additionally, the scattering filter can be applied to already installed modules or integrated into the modules during the manufacturing phase. Integration of this technique into the assembly line would help module manufacturers widen their product portfolio, as per Coloured solar modules can be used in laptops, mobiles, tablet computers, cars, and several other consumer products. This technology may finally help mobile manufacturers achieve this goal without compromising on apperance of the device. Companies with large office spaces are looking at building-integrated PV modules as a promising technology to reduce dependence of grid electricity and reduce their carbon footprint.

New Energy Technologies, Inc., developer of see-through SolarWindow™ coatings, capable of generating electricity on glass and flexible plastics, announced that its technology has set a new record for generating electricity while remaining see-through with over 50% greater power than prior attempts publicized by others. Company engineers estimate that a SolarWindow™ installation on a fifty (50) storey commercial building located in Florida could generate enough electricity to power at least 100 homes while eliminating the equivalent carbon emissions produced by vehicles driving approximately 2,750,000 miles per year. Results are based on independent testing and certification of its SolarWindow™ modules by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Typically, OPV performance tests are conducted on small, lab-scaledevices, which generally measure only 1 square inch (inch2) or smaller due to the challenging nature of OPV scale-up for see-through (semi-transparent) devices. New Energy's latest, high-performance SolarWindow™ module measures 36 in² (232 cm²). SolarWindow™ products are being engineered to generate sustainable electricity, and be aesthetically attractive, and economically cost effective taking into consideration ease-of-manufacturing, scale-up of size, and overall environmental benefits. Among the Company's technologies under development are:

  • MotionPower™ roadway systems for generating electricity by capturing the kinetic energy produced by moving vehicles – a patent-pending technology, the subject of 59 US and International patent applications. An estimated 250 million registered vehicles drive more than six billion miles on America's roadways every day.
  • SolarWindow™ technologies, which generates electricity on see-through glass and flexible plastics with colored tints popular to skyscraper glass. Unlike conventional systems, it can be applied to all four sides of tall towers, generating electricity using natural and artificial light conditions and even shaded areas. It uses organic materials, which are dissolved into liquid, ideal for low-cost high-output manufacturing. New Energy's SolarWindow™ is the subject of 42 patent applications.
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