New Solar “Glass” Nears Mass Production Levels

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Photo credit: Some rights reserved by mag3737 via Flickr

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by mag3737 via Flickr

If you need one great example of a building that generates its own power, that would be the CIS Tower in Manchester, England. Its old mosaic tiles are now completely replaced with solar PV cells, providing an extra 180,000 kilowatts of power per year for the UK.

Though groundbreaking in its own way, it is actually not that easy to implement and emulate the concept that was done to the CIS Tower. But there’s no need to throw away our dreams of energy-independent buildings, because there is yet again another innovation currently under way that might make the idea one step closer.

Oxford Photovoltaics is a spin-off company from the University of Oxford. They specialize in the development and eventual production of solar technologies that would allow buildings and other similar structures to be inherently capable of producing solar energy. The primary concept of their product is that, instead of simply installing solar cells or panels in a building or structure, they would instead replace an integral component of the structure with an alternative that could produce solar energy. In this case, they have their special colored solar glass, which they claim to be easily “printable” and thus can be efficiently mass produced.

The solar glass is actually ordinary glass that is simply “coated” with 3 micron-thick layer of transparent solid-state solar cells. Such thickness is crucial to the final product because it helps the solar cells achieve a relative efficiency that is more or less equal to standard thin-film solar cells (12%). In terms of manufacturing and raw material value, the cost of solar glass could range from £600 to £1,000 per square meter.

Despite the seemingly huge added cost, technically you are simply already paying for the amount which you would have paid for ordinary glass anyway. You’ve just added a little extra to give the glass an added “greener” function. Also, just like any ordinary green energy system, panels in the entire building that is made of solar glass could produce enough energy to power most of the building’s systems, or provide extra power to the national grid.

Recently, Oxford Photovoltaics have received a funding boost, which was due to the aid given by investors at MTI Partners. The added £2 million (3 million USD) will be used for the development of their new headquarters at Begbroke Science Park. It is projected that as early as 2013, there would be A4-sized samples of their product, and by 2014, whole sized panels for large scale use.

Christian Crisostomo
About Christian Crisostomo (260 Posts)

Christian Crisostomo is just your average tech geek that loves to see man's newest and most recent technological exploits. He holds great interest in the potentials of green technology, and is enthusiastic about the continuous development of environment-friendly alternative energy.

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