Yesterday, Sharp announced a new see-through solar panel that offers a variety of benefits over a standard solar panel. The semi-transparent black solar panel is designed to be used in balcony railings or as windows in tall buildings where it can generate energy while also letting light in. The glass, while see-through up close, creates a privacy screen from farther away, acts as a heat shield and is aesthetically pleasing too.
According to CNET, the solar panel "delivers a solar power conversion efficiency of about 6.8-percent with a maximum output of 95 watts." This is quite a bit lower than standard solar panels that typically have conversion efficiencies of 15 to 20 percent, but then again, standard solar panels can't act as windows.
Even with a lower efficiency, the see-through solar panels are generating energy in parts of a building that would typically just consist of ordinary glass or metal, so they're still increasing the potential renewable energy generation of a building by a significant amount.
The panels are constructed with laminated glass that has been infused with photovoltaic solar cells and are 4.5-feet wide by 3.2-feet tall and only 0.37 inches thick. They will go on sale in Japan on October 1, but so far, no pricing details or plans for a release in the U.S. have been revealed.