A New Type of Solar Panel

One of the things that has always caused me problems with solar panels is that they’re a limited technology here in the Midwest, unless you want yet another surface to clear of snow in the winter. In addition, finding places to put the solar arrays is problematic. Once you do find a place to put them, the installation itself is normally an eyesore. So, even though you’re getting power from the sun, you’re paying a relatively high cost for it in more than just monetary ways. Which is why this new solar panel that doubles as windows for the house is intriguing. You can find a quick overview of the technology in the ComputerWorld article entitled, Transparent solar cells could turn windows into generators. The MIT Technology Review article, A New Solar Material Shows Its Potential, provides a little more depth.

The main material used in this new solar panel is perovskite. There aren’t any panel that you can buy today with this material, but it does have a lot of promise. Even if this particular material doesn’t work out because it’s too fragile, a composite with the material or a material with some of the same characteristics could produce solar panels that double as window panes. Because window panes are vertical, rather than at an angle, they won’t suffer from many of the environmental issues that current solar panels do. You won’t see them as something separate from the house and it’s less likely that they’ll be damaged because the house partially protects the windows. Because the windows won’t angle to precisely match the angle of the sun, these solar panels are unlikely to be as efficient as standard solar panels.

Perovskite is a kind of rare earth mineral. Actually, the term encompasses a number of rare earth minerals that exhibit a particular structure. These minerals are somewhat common in a number of locations worldwide. Of course, mining perovskite will still incur the environmental damage I discussed in my A Discussion About Green Technology Pollution and A Discussion About Green Technology Pollution (Part 2) posts. It’s important to realize that this technology reflects a small, but important, step forward.

Several of the articles that appear online indicate that this new technology should be a lot less expensive than current solar panel technology and more aesthetically appealing as well. These two factors bode well for this technology. People won’t use green technologies that cost more than current technologies to use and few people are willing to put up with unappealing yard ornaments. If the people working with this technology succeed, your next window upgrade could provide power to your house as well.

The one thing that concerned me about this technology is whether it would look like standard windows. From what I gathered in reading various articles, the panes can be tinted, just like standard panes. In addition, it’ll be possible to sandwich the panes with inert gasses, such as argon, to produce windows with high emissivity values, which means they should work great in colder climates.

Our green technologies still create way too much pollution, but it appears that we’re making progress. Let me know your thoughts about these new windows at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.