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New invention generates solar power from your own home's windows

Tuesday, April 14th 2020, 11:59 am - A California-based company has developed a kind of coating that would allow treated windows to generate two-thirds of the energy of a traditional solar panel.

You see them more and more now: Solar panels spread out on top of residential homes’ roofs, put there by homeowners hoping to offset their electricity costs with a clean alternative.

In the coming years, however, those conspicuous rooftop arrays may instead shift to the home’s window panes, and sooner than you’d think, if California solar company Ubiquitous Energy keeps going.

The company, based in Redwood City in the San Francisco Bay area, has developed a kind of coating that, when applied to a window pane, generates electricity from solar power -- around 80W per square metre. The windows’ transparency can be as high as 70 per cent, which Veeral Hardev, Ubiquitous Energy’s director of business development, says matches the transparency of most commercially available windows.

GettyImages-594921228-web Photo Credit: Getty Images

“We are conducting installation projects with our pilot size (35cm x 50cm) windows now - although this work also has been halted by the Covid-19 outbreak. We expect that larger size windows will be available to the general public in two-to-three years,” Hardev says. Among the pilot projects are the company’s own production facility, which derives part of its power from the coated glass alternatives.

Hardev says that within three years Ubiquitous expects these solar window panes to produce about two thirds as much energy as a “normal” solar panel. One square metre of the coated glass could produce up to 80W under full sun.

They do cost 10-30 per cent more than a normal window pane, but Hardev says that one-time expense would be offset by subsequent savings on energy.

CANADA LAGS IN SOLAR POWER

Solar power still only makes up a small percentage of the global energy mix (about 3 per cent, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)), but that still amounted to more than 500 TWH in 2018, and it’s growing fast. The IEA projects renewable power generation will grow by 50 per cent from 2019 to 2024, with solar amounting to 60 per cent of that growth.

> The IEA projects renewable power generation will grow by 50 per cent from 2019 to 2024, with solar amounting to 60 per cent of that growth.

The IEA expects China to account for more than half of that growth, and to have more installed capacity than the European Union by 2021 (although that report, originally released in 2019, obviously did not take the current COVID-19 pandemic into account).

Though Canada’s energy profile is dominated by zero-emission sources -- 61 per cent of Canadian electricity comes from hydroelectric power, with 15 per cent from nuclear -- the country is a latecomer to the world of solar energy, accounting for only 0.5 per cent of all electricity generated in 2018. By comparison, wind power accounts for 5 per cent. Of Canada’s small solar energy sector, 98 per cent is located in Ontario.

But the story in Canada, at least up 2018 when it was last measured, has been similar to the world as a whole: small beginnings, but rapid growth, from a mere 16.7 MW of installed capacity in 2005, to 3,040 MW in 2018.

Top Photo Credit: Getty Images

'PERFECT OPPORTUNITY': THE RIGHT SPOT FOR LARGEST SOLAR POWER OPERATION IN CANADA

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