Solar panel glass could turn skyscrapers into power stations

8 June 2018 (Last Updated June 8th, 2018 15:37)

Cambridge-based firm Polysolar has launched a funding programme for its photovoltaic (PV) panels; a transparent alternative to solar panels which the firm hopes could replace windows and assist in the creation of zero-carbon buildings.

Solar panel glass could turn skyscrapers into power stations
Polysolar has launched a funding programme for its photovoltaic (PV) panels Credit: Polysolar

Cambridge-based firm Polysolar has launched a funding programme for its photovoltaic (PV) panels; a transparent alternative to solar panels which the firm hopes could replace windows and assist in the creation of zero-carbon buildings.

The programme has been launched on CrowdCube, with funds raised intended for manufacturing and development costs. The sum would be added to the £1.5m already invested by the firm into the technology’s design and creation.

Polysolar panels are based on a range of thin-film PV technologies. One panel measuring 1,200mm by 600m can generate an average of 5kWh of power per month – equivalent to half an average home’s power consumption per day.

The company estimates that a building such as the Shard, which has enough glass to cover eight football fields, could generate around 2,500MWh per year if fitted with Polysolar panels. This is combined with the reduction in air-conditioning loads.

Such an amount would be enough to create a zero-carbon building, or could alternatively provide 1,000 homes with their annual energy needs.

Though a typical panel currently costs twice that of a conventional glass window, the company says the price could fall to a 10% premium on the cost of regular glass once volume production has begun.

Polysolar CEO Hamish Watson said new clean energy products have never been more vital, thanks to “ongoing concerns about global emissions targets”. He added that he sees a “huge potential market and an opportunity to make a contribution to saving our planet”.

Independent analysis has found that market opportunities for building-integrated PVs could be $26bn by 2022, though this remains a small portion of the overall building glass market.

The panels have already been installed in certain spots around the UK, for instance, in the first solar-powered bus shelter in Canary Wharf, London. They have also been used for the canopies of Sainsbury’s petrol stations and Network Rail building facades, as well as into a series of Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) structures, including curtain wall facades, canopies, skylights, greenhouses and automotive sunroofs.

They have also been deployed in a domestic setting, having been installed as part of a garage roof and workshop in a trial that saw the panels meet the complete power needs of the owner’s home and electric car.

Polysolar was founded in 2007 with the aim of reducing the energy consumption of buildings without sacrificing their aesthetic or functionality.

While not the first company to target windows capable of harvesting solar energy for commercial use, Polysolar believes it has cracked the problem of creating functional a PV film that doesn’t distort, tint or dim natural light.