If you are concerned that solar panels mounted on your roof will make your home ugly, I have some good news and some slightly bad news. But mostly good news.
The good news is that transparent solar panels are real.
Instead of sticking unappealing solar panels on your roof, you’ll be able to generate solar energy through your windows using transparent solar panels.
This will not only maintain your home’s aesthetics, but you might also be able to generate more power compared to traditional solar panels.
These panels also have the potential to power entire skyscrapers and even cities.
The sort of bad news is that the technology still needs a few years to become perfect.
In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit about this fascinating technology that will radically change how we view solar technology, literally.
What are Transparent Solar Panels?
One of the biggest concerns with traditional solar panels is aesthetics and space.
Most people find solar panels ugly, especially if you have to put up several of them. But there’s no other place to put them if you want to capture as much solar energy as possible.
They also take up a lot of space.
The larger the solar array’s surface area, the more power it generates. But not every home has the roof space to generate a lot of energy.
These two limitations have motivated researchers to develop transparent solar panels.
Transparent solar panels use different technologies to capture solar energy without using dark solar cells.
Some use titanium dioxide pastes applied on a thin film, others use organic photo-voltaic cells that absorb other light wavelengths but allow visible light to go through and others use dyes to absorb solar light and direct it towards solar cells.
These technologies are still under research, and no one’s sure which will emerge as the most economical choice for consumer solar panels.
The underlying principle behind all these technologies is that they absorb solar energy – either using some of the visible light or other non-visible light wavelengths – without completely blocking visible light.
The resulting product is a normal-looking pane of glass that can generate solar energy.
Some companies may also come up with thin transparent solar films you can attach to your windows.
Benefits of Transparent Solar Panels
Transparent solar panels have the potential to change the solar energy industry radically.
One way they’ll accomplish this is drastically increasing the amount of power generated through solar energy.
Think about it: what’s more ubiquitous than rooftops?
They are everywhere; on homes, miles of them on skyscrapers, on cars and on buses. Windows provide a much wider surface area for transparent solar panels, which means more power.
Imagine the entire side of a skyscraper acting as a giant solar panel. It’s very possible that cities could run on 100% solar energy.
Vehicles could run on their solar power generated from their own windows.
As a bonus, we don’t have to worry about aesthetics. You won’t have large solar panels on your roof.
In fact, people won’t even realize you have solar panels at all. They’ll look like standard windows.
Limitations to Overcome
The biggest weakness so far for transparent solar panels is efficiency.
Some of the technologies undergoing development are only 1% efficient. Compare that to traditional solar panels that have an efficiency of around 21%.
At the moment, transparent panels generate very little power.
But as the technology gets better, expect that figure to go up. Already, some technologies have achieved efficiencies of 9%.
It is unlikely that transparent solar panels will ever be as efficient as traditional panels. One reason is that they cannot use all the available light; otherwise, they’ll no longer be transparent.
But they don’t have to be as efficient as traditional solar panels to be useful. Remember windows offer a much larger surface area than roofs.
So even with lower efficiency, they’ll generate more power.
There is, of course, the issue of price. Expect these ‘solar-generating’ glass panes to cost more than normal panes.
Some people be willing to spend more on the solar panel windows on new constructions, but it will be harder to convince homeowners to replace existing windows with pricier ones.
Transparent solar panels have a lot of potentials, but they are unlikely to replace traditional solar panels for the foreseeable future.
As of now, the best way to switch to renewable solar energy is by using solar panels.
You can connect them to your existing home grid or buy an all-in-one backup solar generator.