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Science Technology

Solar Window Panes 315

Posted by michael
from the bright-ideas dept.
Val42K writes "Now, those windows that allow glare onto your computer screen can be useful. They will provide power to your computer, air conditioning and other useful necessities. Energy conversion rates are 'way more than 50 percent'."
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Solar Window Panes

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  • what about the dark? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jr87 (653146) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:40AM (#6955101) Homepage
    well I kinda wondered about how it would work so well in NY cuz some buildings or in the shadow of others. Second, if this gets implemented and than a couple days of no sun pop up wouldn't it stress out the grid a bit more than normal
    • by TLouden (677335)
      I think winter would be a bigger problem, many places get weeks and even months without significant lighting at some point in the year. The power grids would still have to be able to handle full usage.
      • by Frymaster (171343) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:26AM (#6955302) Homepage Journal
        many places get weeks and even months without significant lighting at some point in the year

        and many places aren't suitable for hydro generation. and many more places lack fossil fuels. so?

        when it comes to alternative energies, we aren't looking for one silver bullet. a solid energy programme will rely on a diversity of generation methods as well as consumer and industrial-level conservation measures. when it's windy, use wind. when it's sunny, use solar. when neither is available, fall back on hydro or (god forbid) coal. and, of course, conserve, conserve, conserve.

        the last time we had a grand-unified-energy-solution it was "too cheap to meter" nuclear power.

        oops.

    • Second, if this gets implemented and than a couple days of no sun pop up wouldn't it stress out the grid a bit more than normal

      There is one problem with that. Solar cells produce DC energy. The power grid is AC (with the exception of a few high current DC transmission lines). It is possible to 'convert' DC to AC, but it's won't be a natural, clean sine wave. Inverters get better and better, but theystill produce more of a square wave than a sine. It would create 'dirty' energy if dumped onto the grid. S
  • by TLouden (677335) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:40AM (#6955103)
    uh, so how much do I need to power 5 desktops, 3 laptops, and a server? I hope I have enough windows.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:40AM (#6955104)
    Make sure you don't buy Microsoft Solar Windows. Criminals have an easy time breaking in with Microsoft Windows installed.
  • by civilengineer (669209) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:43AM (#6955124) Homepage Journal
    because they will get sunlight devoid of energy. (Just as water downstream of dams has no energy left).
  • by ReyTFox (676839) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:44AM (#6955126)
    If I understand this right, we don't necessarily have to put these in windows to use their power. They could be railings on walkways, desks, sculptures....lots of possibilities.

    Maybe someday everything we build will take solar energy.
  • We already have a lot of promising technology related to alternative energy, energy transmission, and energy conservation. However the common problem amongst all of these is cost. People are usually cheap and until the ROI becomes better businesses are not going to do it. However ROI calculations are becoming easier to make as costs drop as the technologies progress.
    • Sometimes people look beyond ROI when making decisions. There is an intangiable price that some people will put on "being green" or "being green friendly." Of course, this price tag may vary for different companies, but often times it can be chalked up to "public goodwill".
  • by wmspringer (569211) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:45AM (#6955131) Homepage Journal
    This looks pretty cool, but reading through the article I don't really see exactly how much eletricity these will produce per window. Will they make a significant dent in the power costs for a typical household? The cells may only be a quarter each, but how much will it cost to embed them in the windows and collect the power?
    • You're right, we don't know what the net effect is, but I'll note you get a double boost in the summer. When you capture photons at the window and generate electricity from them, not only do you get the power, you're also reducing the heat entering the building.

      Same idea as a green rooftop [tompaine.com].

      Hmm... considering that windows with greater surface area exposed to the sun would be better for generating more electricity, I wonder if we'll see more buildings like this one [skyscrapers.com].
  • by Theory of Everything (696787) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:45AM (#6955132)
    Let the jokes about windows powered computers begin.... I'll start: I want to be the first to have a "linux box powered by windows".
  • Window? (Score:5, Funny)

    by PS-SCUD (601089) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ttocsnamronretep}> on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:47AM (#6955139) Journal
    A window, that isn't on my screen, hmmm.....Oh, you mean my outside awareness portal.
  • by jjeffries (17675) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:51AM (#6955155)
    seeing as how many seem to live in glass houses...
  • Well, (Score:3, Funny)

    by MoronGames (632186) <cam.henlin@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:51AM (#6955156) Journal
    I don't really trust Windows to power my computers.
  • by tessaiga (697968) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @12:51AM (#6955158)

    Check out the pictures to the left of [wired.com] the main story. There's a noticeable difference in light intensity between parts of the window with clear glass and those with the embedded miniature solar panel, leading to a mosaic light pattern. This sort of thing is fine (and maybe even artsy) for an office foyer, but won't be widely adopted in office windows (which make up the majority of downtown buildings) because it's horrible for reading or working in. Your eyes can't tell if they should adjust for the bright or dark spots.

    • Fritted Glass (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aaarrrgggh (9205)
      The idea isn't that different from Fritted Glass, where you have ceramic paint on the window to reflect some light and reduce the solar heat load (or just for privacy). Any glare on the screen is bad, and makes it difficult to focus; the pattern might make it slightly more manageable.

      I think the scale of the cells shown in the renderings is a bit off; you would actually get more usuable surface area with "dots" rather than "small panels", and it would be MUCH less obtrusive.
  • never thought I'd see the day Slashdot praised Windows.....LOL

    seriously, though...energy is everything we need...from producing food to finding water (or desalinating the oceans as will probably be necessary) we need energy to make this work....

    therefore...this is a very good thing...esp. taking buildings off the grid...

    on the other hand, if this really does hit 80-100% efficency as predicted in the article by scientists, I can see a lot of servers and CO-LO's relocating to the Equator...LOL

    pax
    RB
  • Just what I need (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    to power my flying car. Seriously, are we to believe that they are producing solar cells aproaching 100%efficiency in converting sunlight to energy, when the one's they use in our spy satellites only approach 35% ? I hope it is true , but seems like it could just be a publicity stunt fishing for venture capital. I mean it is alot easier to raise money once you get your story published in the mainstream media.
  • Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rritterson (588983) * on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:01AM (#6955199)
    I'm a little skeptical of the technology. It seems like they are just repositioning solar panels in a novel way so that they are integrated into the existing decor. However, the best common solar panels today are only 20% efficient and the common ones you see on houses are only 10% efficient. For the researcher to generally state 'way more than 50%' rings alarm bells in my head.

    Does anyone know why these would be so much better than existing tech?
    • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kaan (88626) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:14AM (#6955249)
      > For the researcher to generally state 'way more than 50%' rings alarm bells in my head.

      I'm with you on this one, as it seems highly suspicious that this group has been able to produce ultra-efficient solar cells. Beyond that, I don't see the point of integrating these panels into a window - that just seems complex, unnecessary, and certainly has to be more expensive than a regular window paired with a stand-alone solar cell.

      My take is that this idea will not succeed. Nobody will be willing to spend the money to replace the windows in existing buildings, and future construction will probably not be interested in spending more money for integrated solar-window things without some reality to back up these efficiency claims.
    • Sounds odd to me too. I've got two guesses:
      1) they're doing some fuzzy math, like including a 50% bonus for saving air conditioning and heating costs (as if simple blinds didn't exist)
      2) maybe they do something really smart with trapping and focusing UV on a smaller number of cells (the article does say that they are a foot apart).
      • 1) they're doing some fuzzy math, like including a 50% bonus for saving air conditioning and heating costs (as if simple blinds didn't exist)

        That's my guess.

        Extraordinary claims, yada, yada, yada...

        Then again, there is much practical truth to the old adage "the only thing 100% efficent is efficency." You don't need fancy technology to generate every milliwatt of power from the sun that the laws of thermodynamics permit if you can just not waste it in the first place.

        If you have semi-translucent dynamic
    • Re:Amazing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr. Sketch (111112) *
      I can't say for certain, but my guess would be that it's because these are always perpendicular to the sun, it can get the maximum energy from it, as opposed to panels on houses which are fixed and will probably average 10% since they can't move with the sun.
      • Yeah, I'd agree with you there. He may have made some design improvements to the actual cell, but I bet that the positioning is key to the efficiency gains.
    • However, it appears that a lot of light gets through, so by no means could it be 50% of the light that the surface is is exposed. In contrast, a regular solar cells are opaque and therefore their percentage is out of 100% of the light that they are exposed to (sounds a bit harder, to me).

      I've read that part of the problem with solar cell efficiency is that they only use a narrow part of the light spectrum. So, I guess the light that doesn't make it through these transparent solar cells is more likely to be
    • I agree all the way. It's one thing that they claim to have invented the blinds inside the window, but to couple that with the ludicrous claim that they are magically getting 50% efficency when even NASA satellites costing many millions of dollars don't even get close to that. Just a load of BS. They are I guess trying to get people to invest so they can swindle them or something.

      Incredible claims require incredible proof, and the fact that the "scientist" said he didn't want to get into specifics, but
    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rorschach1 (174480) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @02:49AM (#6955539) Homepage
      Apparently the >50% claim refers to the vertical multijunction cells [ises.org] they're developing at Rensselaer. Which to me is a far more interesting development than an architectural group's plans to use them in a novel way. Screw fancy windows, just pile 'em on the roof and give me a place to plug in.

  • And they're all flakes. I went to RPI, and the architecture people, the ones who stayed in, delighted in designing buildings that wouldn't stand. The real builders became Building Science majors and or Civil Engineers. 'way more than 50 percent' efficiency sounds typical of the culture there. Spin, FUD, esoteric crap, let the Engineers figure out how to make it work.
  • by repetty (260322) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:03AM (#6955209) Homepage
    I don't believe this story for a second. Not a bit.

    For decades I have been folowing solar cell technology, absolutely salivating at the promises that efficiency rating would soon rise above 15%.

    Well, I've given up. I've read shitty pie-in-the-sky stories like this almost every year for the last 25-years.

    Now, if someone on Slashdot tells me that they bought these +50% efficient solar cells in Home Depot, that's when I'll get excited. Like I'll get excited when Chevrolet markets a flying car or my city puts a nuclear fusion power plant into service.

    Chill out guys, it ain't real 'till it's real.

    --Richard

    • Believe me, I currently own 2 chevy's, and you DO NOT want chevy to market or offer for purchase a flying car..... :)
    • For decades I have been folowing solar cell technology, absolutely salivating at the promises that efficiency rating would soon rise above 15%.


      You need to look in the right places. There are spacecraft with currently flying with 26% efficiency cells. But you won't find 'em at your local radio shack...
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:04AM (#6955213)
    Energy conversion rates are 'way more than 50 percent'

    Bullshit. Current conversion rates are about 18%, and haven't changed much in 20 years or more; they've slowly managed to squeek out more and more power getting up to the current 18-20%, but nowhere near 50%. Let's put this in perspective- it would be like someone claiming they could get 100mpg in their car, and "easily 200mpg".

    The bullshit-o-meter goes off the scale at the claim they can get "100%"- and there's one very simple, indisputable reason; the glass itself blocks a significant amount of energy- ESPECIALLY at a low angle of incidence, where the outer glass is going to reflect a large percentage of the light hitting it. The modules inside the window may pivot, but the outer glass doesn't.

    The bullshit-o-meter EXPLODES at the nice little bit about how they won't discuss specific energy conversion rates in detail. It doesn't help that this is being published in Science for People Who Think They're Trendy(aka Wired). Ring me when she's published results in Nature or (gasp) a professional journal.

    Oh, and if I wasn't pessimistic enough :-)...if this actually DOES pan out...just wait until you see the price tag on 'em, because I'm sure she's going to patent absolutely everything out to wazoo, and one company will get exclusive rights. It'll also be years before we see 'em, as said company will want to protect its investment on current solar panel technology...

    • My bullshit meter pegged at the 100% claim also. You notice there's absolutely no discussion as to how those miraculous little window shades are wired together, or at what voltage they're running at. Are they all in series? If so, do they suffer from the traditional "shade one cell, knock out the whole string" problem?

      Multi-junction tech is a cool idea for making existing designs more efficient. However, this whole revolutionizing building technology sounds like grant-related PR to me.
    • The bullshit-o-meter goes off the scale at the claim they can get "100%"- and there's one very simple, indisputable reason; the glass itself blocks a significant amount of energy- ESPECIALLY at a low angle of incidence, where the outer glass is going to reflect a large percentage of the light hitting it. The modules inside the window may pivot, but the outer glass doesn't.

      So you're saying that a generator inside of a window can only work with light that's actually going through the window? Wow. I learn so

    • by GileadGreene (539584) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:56AM (#6955390) Homepage
      Current conversion rates are about 18%, and haven't changed much in 20 years or more;

      Well, actually, solar cell technology has been improving steadily over the last several years. There are currently flying spacecraft with 26% efficient cells, 28% cells due to start rolling off the production lines sometime in the next year or two, and experimental designs for cells that are up to 35% efficient.

      But you're right - nothing anywhere near 50% (at least AFAIK). And 100% efficient sounds like total BS.

      • Well, actually, solar cell technology has been improving steadily over the last several years. There are currently flying spacecraft with 26% efficient cells, 28% cells due to start rolling off the production lines sometime in the next year or two, and experimental designs for cells that are up to 35% efficient.

        Your key word here is "space"... They are that efficient in space.

        I doubt they have that same efficiency on the ground.

    • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @02:14AM (#6955438) Homepage
      "The bullshit-o-meter EXPLODES at the nice little bit about how they won't discuss specific energy conversion rates in detail. It doesn't help that this is being published in Science for People Who Think They're Trendy(aka Wired)."

      Wow, I agreed with everything you said EXCEPT this trollish remark. What do you have against Wired? Granted they don't get as technical as many scientific journals, but they aren't trying to. And why do you assume Wired is for 'trendy' people? What about people who are very interested in science, technology, and society but don't have time to do in depth research or get bored at reading pages of numbers? Just because a magazine or its readers don't appeal to you, does not give you the right to take dirty shots at them.

      I sure as hell don't see the readers of Wired saying "Yeah, those guys at the Website For People Who Think They're Smarter Than They Are (aka Slashdot)".

      • Wow, I agreed with everything you said EXCEPT this trollish remark. What do you have against Wired? Granted they don't get as technical as many scientific journals, but they aren't trying to. And why do you assume Wired is for 'trendy' people? What about people who are very interested in science, technology, and society but don't have time to do in depth research or get bored at reading pages of numbers? Just because a magazine or its readers don't appeal to you, does not give you the right to take dirty s

    • Oh, and if I wasn't pessimistic enough :-)...if this actually DOES pan out...just wait until you see the price tag on 'em, because I'm sure she's going to patent absolutely everything out to wazoo, and one company will get exclusive rights. It'll also be years before we see 'em, as said company will want to protect its investment on current solar panel technology...

      I think it was a fortune message I saw a really long time ago on a VAX in college that said:

      "We will have cheap and efficient solar power jus
    • I'm not sure you read the article that carefully. There seem to be two claims buried in it. One is a stacked silicon junction, which could have an efficiency greater than the present ones because successive layers presumably absorb light not picked up by the top layer. The second is a means for focussing light from a larger area onto the relatively small silicon photojunctions. This would reduce the cost because the required area of photojunction would be smaller for a given total light absorbing area.

      The

  • What ever happens to these cool sounding 'free' energy things? I've read countless articles in Wired and other magazines that never seem to come to fruition. I seem to remember things like this in the past but never see them when I look out my window...
  • I'm all for saving money for one, less pollution, and putting the filthy, greedy bastard electric companies out of business.

    I'm tired of being ass raped every month with a broken bottle and a pound of sand.

    My last electric bill was $195.00
    $85 was my actual usage and the rest was a "Cost of fuel adjustment"

    Well Entergy, adjust this up your ass. Your days are numbered. You are a dinosaur and we will bury you like the dinosaurs.

    Free, clean energy for all..

    • "You are a dinosaur and we will bury you like the dinosaurs."

      And in a few thousand years, we'll dig you up and burn you in our cars like the dinosaurs. How you like them apples?
    • Well, bear in mind, the dead dinosaurs then got pumped out of the ground and you are now being 'ass raped every month with a broken bottle and a pound of sand' by people wielding them.
    • I have this horrible feeling that the greedy bastards you mention will find some way to monopolize and price-inflate this too. See what M$ did to computer operating systems and what DeBeers did to diamonds.
    • I'm all for saving money for one, less pollution, and putting the filthy, greedy bastard electric companies out of business.

      I'm tired of being ass raped every month with a broken bottle and a pound of sand.

      What makes you think the situation will be any different when the electricity is coming from solar panels and not burning coal ?

      • then you own the device that makes the electricity(so, you don't need to associate yourself with electricity companies should you not want to).

        iirc, in spain it's possible to sell some of the stuff your solar cells produce back to the network(ok, a year ago there i saw some adverts that hinted this way, in a newspaper).

        with the efficiency today you'd need a shitload of panels though to cover everything(for summer cottage use they've been good enough for the past 15 years, to power tv&etc).
  • Ultimately, Dyson is confident her team's solar cells can reach nearly 100 percent efficiency -- compared with typical solar panels' conversion rate of less than 20 percent.

    If by some miracle that claim is true, it could change the world. People have been striving for decades to eke out a couple more percent efficiency out of solar collectors. This would be a major breakthrough. The last thing anybody would worry about is sticking these >90% efficient cells in a window shade; they'd be deploying massi

  • Near 100%? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AsmordeanX (615669)
    Um, yeah right.

    Even 50% is staggering. Heck even 35% would have been quite impressive. Why is my BS meter hovering around MEG right now?

    Don't get me wrong, I know they work and are real but I seriously doubt the efficentcies they claim.
  • I'm seeing a few posts mentioning clean or environmentally friendly power. After production solar cells do give you that, however the last time I check the production of solar cells resulted in large amounts of toxic material. They probably end up being better then coal plants but not as clean as nuclear or my personal favorite solar heat plants. This isn't meaning to sound like a bash. I fully intend to use solar cells on my new home, I just wanted people to realize that nothings perfect.

    As for the arti
    • After production solar cells do give you that, however the last time I check the production of solar cells resulted in large amounts of toxic material. They probably end up being better then coal plants but not as clean as nuclear or my personal favorite solar heat plants.

      Actually, they're not. Si based solar-cells cost more energy to make than they will ever generate in electrical power.

  • Total Vaporware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blueandwhiteg3 (670608) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:36AM (#6955336)
    I've done a great deal of research on the topic of solar energy and have a pretty good understanding of physics. To the average person, this article sounds wonderful - super efficient solar panels, a total breakthrough! To me, it's pretty easy to see this article either grossly misquotes the researcher or the researcher is completely crazy.

    From the article: "Ultimately, Dyson is confident her team's solar cells can reach nearly 100 percent efficiency -- compared with typical solar panels' conversion rate of less than 20 percent."

    100% sounds great. Except they forgot that glass absorbs/reflects a minimum of 10% of the light, much more at non-direct angles. And that getting any semiconductor (solar panel) surface to absorb all light hasn't yet been possible - assume another 15% is lost here. And of course, to be able to actually see through the cells (they're "translucent"), we'll assume 20% light transmission. Then you need to think about things like entropy and expect a nice loss in this process, we'll be generous and figure 10% loss.

    Just adding the percentages shows 55% efficiency by simple addition. And this is with everything ideal. And now consider that the _best_ solar experiments have approached, under super-controlled situations, 40% efficiency.

    And top all this off with no demonstration of the product itself and no details on their technology, it's another vaporware article.
  • Depending on the bulk of the equipment used in the conversion process, I wonder if perhaps this technology could be applied to electric vehicles. As long as such tiny windows could actually collect enough energy to make it worthwhile, that is. With the claims of > 50% conversion and the cells being translucent, perhaps it could work.

    Random idea... probably insane, probably retarded. I never didn't claim to be either. Or both. What was the question?
    • I can see it helping, but not that much... Usually EVs have motors that consume >60Kw of power at peak. Even while cruising, a vehicle consumes around 10-12Kw to keep in motion on a highway. A typical EV might have, what, about 4 or 5 square meters recieving full sun at noon? That works out to 5Kw available, and something more than 2.5 turned into power. It could help, however, there simply is not enough energy in direct sunlight to keep a car moving at highway speeds, unless the car loses substantially
    • i don't think it would be enough to maintain a car's speed at, say, a highway speed, let alone handle acceleration, but it could be a nice supplement to power (or help power) the rest of a car's electronics - cd player, interior/exterior lights, etc.

      on the other hand, if you look at the images from the wired article, you'll notice that the windows give you a mosaic pattern of light inside the buildings. i wouldn't think that that would be a great idea for a window that you need to be looking out of const
      • Good points. I had thought maybe accessories would be better powered than attempting to power the entire car. I'm glad to see someone else thinks that could be viable.

        I hadn't really taken much notice of the photos, I must admit. I read the article and the thought immediately popped in my head and wanted to share it. Obviously I'm a software designer, I didn't look at all the details!

        If the windows are tough to see out of, not a problem. Just think of the freeway scene in Night Shift, in Michael Kea
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The glare that once bounced off your computer monitor no longer exists. And the sun's intense heat, which once led to window-shade tug-of-wars with co-workers longing for a little natural light, no longer beats down on you. You comfortably tap at your keyboard under natural, abundant, ambient light.

    Do the math...one cm^2 out of one ft^2 still leaves 99.9% of the area uncovered. How does this stop glare or solar heating?

  • Vaporware (Score:3, Interesting)

    by acvolt (241850) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @01:49AM (#6955371)
    In the article it states that the squares are translucent, but solar cells appear dark in color because they are asorbing energy and the silicon that it is stated they are made of isn't transparent(at least the last time I checked) unless they adapted the formula for transparent aluminum.

    If these chips were actually 50% efficient wouldn't the target application be either large scale solar energy collection or satellites or something, not automatic window blinds like stated? Satellite companies would jump all over this if it were true. Some of the best GaAs triple junction cells are only around 30% efficient. I would really like to have some more information about the actual junction(s) used within the silicon.
    • Re:Vaporware (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jd34 (599131)
      Key word is "tracking"... this is a concentrator system that only uses beam radiation directly from the sun. The square foot or so will most likely involve a fresnel lens to concentrate the light on very small, highly efficient cells. Any light not coming straight from the sun (bouncing off of clouds, atmospheric dispersion, or reflecting off of nearby buildings) will simply be ignored by the concentrator, so depending on the tracker orientation you could see terrestrial features (building next door, stree

  • The university is seeking both patents and a government contract to move to the next prototyping step.


    What's wrong with this picture from the taxpayer's perspective?

  • If they have the technogy for these suposed
    "Dyson is confident her team's solar cells can reach nearly 100 percent efficiency"
    why are they limiting it to some silly
    window apllication, the cells on there
    ones are worth a fortune even at
    "more than 50 percent"

    I meen we are talking massive incress
    from the current "super high levels"
    of around 3x%..
    http://www.you.com.au/news/1958.htm

    Perhaps they are misinterpting the
    results becasue of the " focusing them into the small silicon squares, also called solar chips"

    m
  • And they do help with temperatures a lot here in Texas. I also have a very dark shade put up in my room also to keep the light out. Ahh the sun *hisses like vampire*
  • Solar Office (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmythe@jws[ ]he.com ['myt' in gap]> on Sunday September 14, 2003 @02:57AM (#6955564) Homepage Journal
    Funny, I was just thinking about something like this.. My idea wasn't transparent though. Generally, office windows are too big, and frequently blocked by furnature. 8-foot tall windows do give a pretty good surface area to work with.

    What if....

    Take a reasonable area of the window, and mount solar cells and peltier elements [heatsink-guide.com] flush to the window. Admitted, it won't work on all sides of the buildings, but 50% of most buildings could use it.

    The solar panels aren't enough to say run the whole office, but they would be good for powering the peltier elements, and supplementing the building power. Say it took 25% of the load off the building, that would be substantial.

    Peltier elements are usually good for a 70 degree difference in temperature between the front and back of the element. So, if it's 100 degrees on the hot side, it could be 30 degrees on the cool side. Ahhh, on a 100 degree day, wouldn't it be nice to be in a cold office?

    Many buildings (architects can argue this all day) have a decent space between floors, for ducts, plumbing, power, and the thickness of the floor itself. The outside of the building in those spaces is unused non-window space. If the buildings, by design, used that space for solar panels, and used peltier coolers as part of their cooling system, cooling at least part of the outside surface in the summer and heating it in the winter, the power reduction would be tremendous.

    Most of the buildings I've worked in for long durations were in the southern part of the US. Those buildings usually require cooling year round to maintain the appropriate temperatures, thanks to all the hot equipment we run inside.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Tried it (Score:3, Informative)

    by trolman (648780) * on Sunday September 14, 2003 @03:23AM (#6955628) Journal
    and it does reduce the heat in my 'radio and computer shack' by about 4 degrees during the day. I have 150W of solar and they charge batteries and those power the UPS and 12VDC equipment like radios, netgear switch, and SMC router. When the sun comes up the load comes off of the battery charger and the temperature goes down= do not need at much cooling. It is about 100W/hr of cost savings at full sun.
  • Energy conversion rates are 'way more than 50 percent'.

    This is a misquote of the original article, which says:

    'The cells ... will have a "way more than 50 percent" energy conversion rate.'

    And even that is obviously hot air from a marketing droid. I'll believe
    a conversion rate above 25% when a reliable person reports having
    measured it, not before.
  • by Genjurosan (601032) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @04:09AM (#6955759)
    She is leading a team of researchers who are trying to prevent future power failures by making energy-sucking office buildings ultra-efficient at peak hours. (From the article)

    I'm here working, and I am the only one on a floor that holds 200, and EVERY light in the place is on. Also all the other 6 floors of the two adjacent buildings are running. What's worse, I couldn't even tell you how to turn off even a section of these lights, as there are no visable light switches. My company is just wasting power... All I really need at my desk is my two lamps and nothing else.
  • Whose time has come. Put solar windows in all office blocks, and solar tiles (both electric & water heating) in the roofs of all houses, and you go a long way toward solving the energy problems. Even in cooler countries these schemes pay-back after a few years - ie the extra it costs is paid back in electricty savings. In hot contries, a house can (in effect) generate as much electricity as it consumes - in Australia you have Zero annual electricity bills [industry.gov.au] for these guys - the tiles make as much electric

  • by panurge (573432)
    People frequently observe that these technologies are more expensive than existing power gen.

    We are already seeing that the US army is struggling to put enough forces into Iraq to stabilise the situation and get the oil flowing. What happens if there is a fundamentalist coup in Saudi Arabia, and a war with Iran? And if Putin decides that now is the time to reassert Russian power and decides to supply all the oil to the EU? Would the threat of a nuclear attack get the oil flowing again? Are conventional forc

  • From the article:

    Ultimately, Dyson is confident her team's solar cells can reach nearly 100 percent efficiency -- compared with typical solar panels' conversion rate of less than 20 percent.

    What ? 100% efficiency ? How is that supposed to work ? It's true that our current solar panels give at best 20% (and usually 12%); and it's also true that the theoretical limit is at about 50% or so. How will the magic windows achieve the "nearly 100%" efficiency ? Are they made of black holes, so that they can ab

  • research funding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcboy (4794) on Sunday September 14, 2003 @11:19AM (#6956944) Homepage
    This article is clearly a pie-in-the-sky dream.

    Solar power, however, isn't. There is a lot of promising research in the field, and higher efficiency panels are possible (over 20%, not near 100%). But research continues on shoe-string budgets.

    Some rough numbers:

    Yearly direct oil industry subsidies in the mid 90's: $11.9 billion ... including Persian Gulf defense prior to W: $35.2 billion

    W's proposed budget for developing alternatives:
    solar: $42.9 million, wind: $20.5 million

    These numbers were found with google and shouldn't be taken as gospel truth, though I believe they are roughly accurate.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday September 15, 2003 @05:14PM (#6967969)
    This nice bit of technology (but bad engineering) will never make it in the real world. Pigeons, spiders, wind, snow, urban grime, clumsy cleaners, and assorted urban insults (taggers, vandals, inquistive slashdotters, etc.) will doom any of these solar window installations to the scrap heap inside of a year or two. Their structures look far too flexible and intricate to survive real world applications.

    Don't get me wrong. I would love a cheap, reliable source of solar power. And I don't care about efficiency, because it is only tangentially relevant to the real measure of solar cell feasibility. I only care about long-term TCO and the effective ROI. Give me a coated, 5% efficient solar cell plastic film that costs 10 cents per lifetime kWh and I will coat every square inch that I have ownership of. Until then I will say "just what I need; another complex costly subsystem on my building."

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