Spray-On Solar PV Windows Could Save Skyscrapers Money - But Essential Questions Remain Unanswered

glass skyscraper photo
photo: charmar via flickr
Spray-on solar panels have been in the works for a couple years now, with press releases and conferences occurring periodically, but so far we haven't really seen much more than that. And New Energy Technologies (the same people who want us to deploy power generating speed bumps) only adds to that just over the horizon anticipation--the company has just touted the potential of what it's clear spray-on solar cells could do for windows in skyscrapers the world over. There is indeed an undeniable gee-whiz factor to it. Dubbed and trademarked the SolarWindow, the process involves spraying on tiny solar cells (less that a quarter the size of a single rice grain) onto glass. The procedure can be done at room temperature, with the resulting coating being one-tenth the thickness of thin-film solar--that is, 1/1000th the thickness of a human hair. But that much has been known for a while, as New Energy Tech has been working on this concept for a while now.

But what is new is the potential savings when applied to commercial buildings. Based on their modeling, a 40-story building could save an estimated $40,000-70,000 annually using this technology, versus $20,000 a year with just roof-mounted solar panels.

Part of that is that there's more surface area capable of generating electricity, but part of it is that New Energy Tech says the cells in SolarWindow are much more efficient than regular solar cells in producing power from artificial light sources from inside the building hitting the glass.

OK, if your head's shaking from all the unknowns in this, mine is too. Cost, efficiency of the cells, durability, efficient use of resources (it still takes energy-intensive use of non-renewable natural resources to make the cells, and should we be putting them into applications where the power is maximized?), etc, etc. In short, as Renewable Energy World states tersely, "the all-important numbers such as installed cost and efficiency were not discussed," by the manufacturer.

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More on the Solar Power:
Spray-On Solar Cells, Printed Like Newspaper, Being Developed by Univ. of Texas Researchers
Spray-On Solar Panels Being Developed in Australia, Could Be Sold by 2011
Spray-On Solar Factory to be Largest Photovoltaic Plant in Southern Hemisphere

Tags: Renewable Energy | Solar Power

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