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FEATURE SOLAR


Shining examples


Companies and researchers are finding new ways of integrating solar technology into urban environments, such as in windows and on roads. Gemma Church reports


S


olar energy could so easily meet our ever-growing energy demands – if only we could find a way to capture and utilise the sun’s rays


efficiently. Conventional solar panel technology


is a first step towards this goal, but the fabrication and installation of such first- generation photovoltaic devices are often difficult, while concerns over the longevity and efficiency for these devices remain a sticking point in the solar energy sector. A new generation of photovoltaic


technologies could unlock the solar sector’s potential, and it’s a much-needed solution, as Dr Troy Townsend, assistant professor at St Mary’s College of Maryland, explained: ‘Given the projected rise in global population and energy demand, we expect to be using 25 terawatts (TW) as a planet by 2035. Because the sun provides


24 Electro Optics March 2017


120,000TW to us every day, we could theoretically harness 600TW if we installed photovoltaics on buildings and roads around the world.’ It’s a tantalising prospect that’s captured


the imagination and purse strings of the world’s leading entrepreneurs. Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity boss Elon Musk, for example, recently unveiled a solar roof made entirely out of solar cells. Exact details on the technology and its cost are yet to be revealed, but it’s just one possibility in the world of alternative solar technology.


See-through solar While covering the world’s roofs with photovoltaics will help, another potential application is the incorporation of solar technology into glass. SolarWindow Technologies is one


“We see SolarWindow coatings being applied to vast acres of glass in tall towers to provide a source of renewable electricity”


company working in this area to develop transparent coatings for glass and flexible materials that produce electricity. John Conklin, president and CEO of SolarWindow, said: ‘As a transparent electricity-generating coating, we see SolarWindow coatings being applied to the vast acres of window glass in tall towers and skyscrapers to provide a source of renewable electricity and offset the building’s energy needs in this untapped market.’


These coatings are made primarily of @electrooptics | www.electrooptics.com


Mitar Vidakovic/Shutterstock.com


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