Imagine having a window which protects you from adverse weather conditions, reduces your electricity bill, and also saves the planet from global warming. Pretty cool, right? Fortunately, this is not a merely utopian concept, it can be made available in your house. We’re talking about solar-powered windows.
The amazing thing is how widespread this technology is. The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EREE) reports that these windows are found in 80% of residential homes. This means that 4 out of 5 people have adopted the technology. What does it really mean? And how does it work? Learn more in the ensuing paragraphs.
How does a Solar-Powered Smart Window Work?
These smart windows are usually created from an energy-harvesting thermochromic perovskite. This means that the material can change color from a bright, clear surface to a dark, tinted one when heat is applied. Unlike a conventional solar PV cell which uses opaque silicon material, transparent materials are used for solar windows.
As solar irradiance becomes incident on the window, molecules of methylamine are driven out and this causes the window to appear dark. As the material goes from transparent to tinted, the heat is absorbed by the structure and sunlight is converted into electricity.
Is this concept viable? Yes, it is. And the next few paragraphs discuss some of the makers of the products in the market.
What are the Benefits of Solar Powered Windows?
1. It is a Good Use of Space
Compared to rooftop solar panels which might appear cumbersome to install and maintain, the installation process of solar-powered windows seems to be a better use of space.
2. Solar-Powered Windows Provide Energy Saving Potential
When you have a material which limits the amount of sunlight entering your home, you invariably save HVAC costs. This reduces the strain on your equipment and the amount you save on electricity over time significantly increases.
3. It is Aesthetically Pleasing
Solar-powered windows are sleek and inconspicuous. Your building looks just the same on the outside and you get to enjoy the change in appearance inside. Irrespective of your taste in style or technological nuance, solar-powered buildings will always be cool.
Disadvantages of Solar-Powered Windows
The major disadvantage is that the technology is enormously expensive to produce. A lot of work goes into the miniaturization, the viability, and the R&D and these factors drive up the cost of installation. It also doesn’t help that the efficiency is far below that of conventional solar PV panels.
Existing Market Growth
About 5.6 million buildings have over 400 million square feet of windows in the United States alone. If solar panels were installed on this surface area, it has the potential to generate over 4 GW of power. One hindrance though is the subpar efficiency.
NREL reports a peak efficiency of 11.3% while the average of 5 different units stands at 10.3%. Even though there’s a prediction which posits that 40% of the total supply of electricity in the United States can be from windows, significant investment is still needed, especially in the area of R&D.