If you look closely, you may notice that some buildings are installing solar-powered windows. With scientists focusing on putting see-through solar windows on the fast track to a wider market, innovations for solar windows are popping up more and more.
Take the concept of spray-on solar coatings. Rather than replacing entire windows to offer solar power, scientists are crafting alternatives. For instance, New Energy’s technology joins a growing list in the achievements of solar inks and sprays.
Such spray-ons have the potential to lower the cost of installed solar energy, a rate that has been dropping faster than ever.
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New Energy dubbed their own creation the SolarWindow, which is designed for transparent glass in both commercial and residential buildings.
Federal scientists have been working in agreement with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to create a more efficient prototype, increasing the number of working solar cells that contact the surface area.
Other technologies look to increase the size of the windows and develop less expensive coating materials (the largest window so far is one square foot).
This will all be done through these innovative sprays and films. The University of Texas is working on solar paint that simply sprays onto the surface, while start-ups like Innovalight have engineered a solar ink “tattoo” that can be applied directly to windows.
Recent employment stats show that the private sector is catching up on investment in future solar enterprises. In the meantime, companies with breakthrough technologies have had to rely on the public sector investments to see their ideas through to production.
This is only the same story that has been told for generations: the fossil fuel industry has always relied on the public sector to deliver fuel.
The NREL is an example of an ambitious program to help solar start-ups get up and running, merging private interest with federal support, to help create more green jobs as well as increasingly lower the cost of solar energy.
With the power of the federal government, its money and often its incentives, private laboratory work can get the funding and attention it needs to bring fast-paced innovations and continued solar improvement into the national consciousness, and allow for more affordable and accessible renewable solar energy.