Homes use a lot of electricity, and solar panels are often not enough to offset the average household energy consumption. It makes sense that builders are on the lookout for innovative ways to incorporate eco-friendly solutions and products into their designs, to benefit both the environment and the homeowners’ wallet in the long run.
Over the years, technological advancements to home inclusions, such as LED lights and solar panels, have contributed to increasing the star ratings of homes. But one necessary home inclusion that many people don’t realise is fundamentally passive, and offsets the benefits of added inclusions, is windows.
A greater understanding of the passive nature of windows within the industry has led to the development of window glazing and awareness of the orientation of the home. These help to maintain the home’s internal temperature while lowering windows’ passivity, but it’s believed more can be done to take advantage of the sunlight shining through.
Professor Jacek Jasieniak of ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, along with researchers from Monash University, have created a product that might transform the passive attributes of windows into ones that actively produce electricity through the power of semi-transparent solar cells.
With the help of Viridian Glass – one of Australia’s largest glass manufacturers – this research has led to the successful production of windows integrated with next-gen perovskite solar cells, which generate electricity and allow light to pass through. The semi-transparent appearance of the cells also acts as an alternate solution to current window glazing, maintaining both the same tinting levels and benefits.
The researchers say that two-square metres of the solar window will generate around 280W– the same as the average wattage output of a standard rooftop solar panel.
‘Rooftop solar has a conversion efficiency of between 15–20 per cent,’ says Professor Jacek. ‘The semi-transparent cells have a conversion efficiency of 17 per cent while still transmitting more than 10 per cent of the incoming light.’
There are hopes that this new discovery can be integrated into commercial and large residential projects, with expected future traction in the rest of the housing market. However, at the moment the researchers say consumers need to keep in mind that while the solar cells can be made more or less transparent depending on preferences, the clearer they are the less electricity they generate.
As to when the first semi-transparent solar cell windows will be on the market, Professor Jacek says it’s dependant on how successful the scaling of the technology in collaboration with Viridian Glass will be. ‘We are aiming to have the first application of the windows installed in multi-storey buildings within the next 10 years,’ he says. ‘It’s long been a dream for many industries to have windows that generate electricity, and now it looks possible.’