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aecarol1 t1_iu5tibm wrote

This is as useless an idea as putting solar panels on the road surface.

Being transparent means that much passes through so they will not generate as much power as dedicated solar panels, but we still have the cost to wire together all the windows electrically and pass to power inverters. Not being on a roof, it's harder to pipe the power, window to window which means cutting through walls or running conduit on the outside of the building.

Windows often get shaded (or even partially shaded) which means there will be a need for micro-inverters so one shaded window doesn't shut down all the other windows.

Solar panels belong where they can get good unobstructed, light. Where they can be compactly wired together. Where they can be maintained without inconveniencing people.


realmystik t1_iu6iwsc wrote

its funny cause you dont know how it works and you are arguing with people based on your sense


aecarol1 t1_iu6l1nr wrote

I'm not sure what you mean.

First off, they are excited to announce the things last 500 hours.

They also talk about test surfaces 2.8 cm2. That's a bit bigger than one square inch. They are announcing a breakthrough that lasts 500 hours for one square inch. They have presented no evidence that this will scale to window size coatings and that it will be uniform enough to look like clear glass. Eyes are sensitive to windows that are "splotchy" or not uniform clarity.

This isn't ready for prime time and belongs in same bucket as the "amazing battery breakthrough" stories we see Every. Single. Week. That come to nothing.

But getting back to what they claim might be possible.... they don't produce much power (every bit of light you see, is light that's not converted to electricity. If 1/2 the light is passed in so you can actually see outside, that means its base production is only 1/2 of a normal panel.

No matter the technology, it's low voltage, which means it must be connected to an inverter to create AC power. You can combine multiple windows to a shared inverter, but if one window is shaded (even a bit), then all the windows must turn off. The alternative is to have micro inverters one-per-window (or at least sections that are shaded together).

All of that requires extra wiring. If the inverters are near the windows, you must have lots of inverters scattered around the building, wired together. If they are in a single location then you must have low voltage lines connecting each window to their inverter. Low voltage lines that are long must be very thick to avoid losses.

Low buildings tend to have trees or shrubs that shadow. Tall buildings tend to be built next to other tall buildings. Of course there are places where things line up and there is a lot of windows that face the sun, in that case you might get some measure of power from it.

If a company has thousands of extra dollars and they want to do more than make showy press releases, that money is better spent on roof-top solar, and if that's full, then they will save more aggregate energy with LED lights, better thermal insulation, and more efficient heating/cooling.


dubiousadvocate t1_iu9lkom wrote

That’s why they’re called Proofs of Concept. The Wright brothers first functional aircraft was widely ridiculed too but ten years later they were essential in WW1.


aecarol1 t1_iua37ps wrote

Absolutely! "Proofs of Concept" are valuable and this should be explored.

There is a plausible way forward. I think this is worth pursuing and experimenting with, but we should not be overselling this or its potential based on very, very, very early experiments with none of the obvious downsides being talked about in these press releases.

They advertise the costs of the panel to be lower, but they still need the same controllers, inverters, and wiring as regular solar panels and those cost the same. The required electronics typically cost 40% of what the panels cost. The price of panels has gone down, but per-watt generated, you will need to spend about 40% on inverters etc.

In small business level installations, the cost of the panels is typically 25% of the total cost. Even if they drop significantly in price, the other 75% isn't going down. The total price is lower, but not nearly as much as naively looking only at panel prices would imply.

For example, if the price of solar panels dropped 50% overnight, the total cost for an installation would drop by about 12.5%. Nice savings, but not the 50% we might have hoped for.

Bottom line, I like exploring this, there may be real benefits that are worth looking for. That said, I would not be counting eggs or presuming anything will come of it.

"They laughed at the Wright brothers, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown."


dubiousadvocate t1_iuaadt4 wrote

>"They laughed at the Wright brothers, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown."

Yeah. That was kind of, no actually was, Bozo's business model. And they made millions. That's a strange take.

That said I appreciate the knowledge you brought to this thread even as it is a peculiar mix of optimism and pessimism.


aecarol1 t1_iuabsze wrote

My comment was simply to show that one technology being derided and then becoming a spectacular success (aviation), isn't applicable to another unrelated technology being derided. The critics being wrong on one, doesn't mean they are wrong on an another.

I am hopeful for this, but I think this technology has more in common with battery advancements than aviation. On so many technology subjects, we see press releases masquerading as news talking about incredible breakthroughs which reporters extrapolate to societal changing implications. Sometimes they are right (cell phones), mostly they are wrong (Segway)

I enjoyed debating the merits with you also! I hope this pans out, we certainly need as much power as we can obtain and the sun is a great source.


RedditorsArGrb t1_iu6wtv8 wrote

>You can combine multiple windows to a shared inverter, but if one window is shaded (even a bit), then all the windows must turn off.

what is your basis for this (ridiculous) statement?


aecarol1 t1_iu6xm1e wrote

Because that's how solar panels work. There are technologies to mitigate this, but they require more complex wiring and more sophisticated electronics.

If all the panels share one inverter (least expensive option), and if one panel has shade (even partial shade) then the entire array shuts down. If it doesn't the shaded sections actually consume power and will become very hot. Bypass diodes will help, but not always.

If you have micro inverters (each panel gets its own inverter) then one shaded window only reduces the power by that specific window, all is good. But now you need an expensive inverter box for each window. This is not cheap,

There are lots of schemes and systems to work around this and they work to varying degrees, but the thing in common is that they require more electronics to make that work and the entire point of this is to be "cheap".

If that's not enough, I can provide endless cites for the solar panel shading problem and the current solutions.


RedditorsArGrb t1_iu6yv95 wrote

yeah, I know what bypass diodes are. since you know what they are too it's kind of strange that you wrote a comment pretending they don't exist.


aecarol1 t1_iu6zf7v wrote

My point is that this can be fixed, but requires a lot more than the dead-simple shared inverter. That goes against the central point that this is supposed to be "cheap" and easy to deploy.

Low windows are often shaded by parked vehicles, trees, and shrubs. Tall buildings are often in dense places with other tall buildings that cast shadows.

This can work, but not for most places.

Either way, they have only shown this lasts 500 hours and they've only tested something slightly bigger than one-square inch. This is no better than the endless updates we get on "breakthrough batteries" every week that almost never end up working as well as hoped and almost never ship.

When they actually get this to last years, and they get it to work on full sized windows, and they get it uniform to not look splotchy and they keep their efficiency, and they solve the shading problem. Then we'll have something exciting. Right now it's a press release and nothing more.


RedditorsArGrb t1_iu72aup wrote

are bypass diodes "a lot more"? or are they a cheap and common element of most existing PV systems?

and yes, those major technical challenges mean this is very far from the market, if it ever makes it there, and all the articles deliberately do a poor job of explaining that.

but you can do better than being one of the many "helpfully" chiming in to let us know windows need to let some sunlight through as if that dooms the economic prospects out of the gate. It doesn't - these technologies are cheap to fabricate and new buildings are going to need glass somethings in the window frame. "It will always be better to build a normal building but then also pay a crew to go mount and install conventional solar panels in a field" is very much not a certainty, and private building developers probably don't care very much even if it's true.


aecarol1 t1_iu77mzp wrote

I'm "one of those guys" because the crowd that loves this idea heavily overlaps the "put solar panels on the roads" people. There is so much wrong with that idea it boggles the mind people don't think about it and rush to support a really crappy idea.

People like simple solutions to complex problems, especially those that show we "are doing something" especially with "out of the box thinking" technology.

This idea is certainly better than solar roads, but even with their "breakthrough" this isn't really ready for prime time. Even if this was "built into the windows" it still has to be wired into the building and all the support electronics such as inverters, controllers, etc, has to be wired and installed.

It's a lot easier to have a crew on a single flat roof, free to run conduit without cosmetic concerns, than it is to have electricians run extra wiring through walls and install extra electronics in every windowed room on every floor.

If all the ducks line up just right, this idea might well have a net positive, but it's far from clear and the history of this kind of announcement indicates it's not likely to.

We need to look at this holistically. After the easy fix of solar on the roof, is the money better spent on solar windows or on more efficient lighting or air conditioning?


CocodaMonkey t1_iu9awdp wrote

I agree with you on most things but ultimately it's a cost issue. If they get the cost low enough it becomes viable. Obviously it's only really going to be a good choice if you've already depleted all the area you had for normal solar panels.

It's not going to be as useful as a lot of people here think but I could see it becoming useful on skyscrapers. If buildings are built with these in mind, the setup costs go down drastically.

Ultimately it's not very useful yet but we do build buildings with tons of windows and very little roof space so I wouldn't abandon the technology.


aecarol1 t1_iu9heon wrote

I think you're on the right track. Once you've exhausted the higher payout items (roof, light/heat/cooling efficiency, etc), then windows might enter into it. There may be ranges of configurations where it's a net win. I agree that tall buildings are the best bet, so long as they have south facing windows and some confidence another tall building won't be built in that direction in the decade or two.

I'm not sure what happens when the solar in a window malfunctions. Does the window need to be removed and replaced? Is that disruptive to the people in that office? This is one of the bigger issues with the "solar road" ideas. Nobody wants the utility digging up an otherwise fully functional road to "fix" a bad section of solar. It's disruptive.

I know some companies have decided to build their solar "elsewhere". If they don't have enough roof, they buy land quite far from their place of business and build a quality solar farm and use that power. Sometimes their generation facility is literally hundreds of miles away. They go where the land is cheap and the weather less cloudy.

Electrons are fungible, so if they put X watts into the grid, they get to pull X watts at their place of business. All of the benefits with little of the downside.

Roof and ground solar is easy to maintain because people can work without bothering other businesses or employees. Things can be built without regard to cosmetics, and the maintenance people have a dense consolidated area they can operate in.


crispy2 t1_iu5ylob wrote

Ok but windows also get sun so why not have them generate power.


aecarol1 t1_iu60vfk wrote

Because it's a poor use of resources. By surface area, you will get far less power than on the roof. And yet you have to electrically wire all the windows together and hook them to multiple micro inverters to get 110 power. That's running a lot of electrical conduit etc.

That's going to cost a lot of money, for not much power.

If you have the money to do all that, put that money into more roof-top solar. You will get far more bang for the buck.

If you are a company trying to maximize power and your roof is already full of solar, spend the money on a solar farm where land is cheap. You will generate twice the power for the same money.


crispy2 t1_iu689gz wrote

On new construction the wiring is trivial. Conduit and/or chases can make retrofitting easy.

It's also supposed to be "low cost".

If a roof already has solar panels on it or you are at higher laditudes windows or wall solar makes sense.


dontpet t1_iu64lw1 wrote

I agree though they might be useful on commercial buildings. It another building isn't blocking the light.


aecarol1 t1_iu65rjo wrote

Short buildings don't have a lot of windows to make it worth while and are likely surrounded by trees, bushes, and other things that case shade. Tall buildings have lots of windows, but tend to be surrounded by other tall buildings casting shade.

Roofs are flat and easy to work on and are more likely to have sun for more years and more of each day.

If the building is being built and there is money in the budget for "solar windows" even if they don't generate much power, the money would be better spent better insulating the building to lower heating/cooling costs or investing in more efficient heating/cooling.

Saving electricity on more efficient heating and air conditioning has exactly the same effect as generating more power using "solar windows". In fact, you might save more power because you can only generate electric from about 10am to about 4pm, but heating/cooling runs outside those hours.


parkineos t1_iu6iyt1 wrote

Terrible idea, we have plenty of space to put traditional panels in the proper orientation to the sun, who needs a transparent 90° badly positioned expensive window, that will barely charge your phone.


cheazy-c t1_iucxtpy wrote

At least innovation is happening in the space.

I would imagine that that transparent panels would be more applicable to the likes of skyscrapers where the surface area of the skin of the building (usually made of glass) and their height might give enough power generation to potentially make the buildings carbon neutral or even maybe even create a surplus.

Places where there isn’t an excess of land to build huge solar farms could stand to benefit in this regard, like Singapore or Hong Kong.


zebtacular t1_iu5prvb wrote

Sounds great from the title. But I see know way windows of this nature being made as affordable as a common window just purely based on greed alone. Why wouldn’t they make them a unreasonable cost? It will end up being like solar panels today where you need a tax credit to get them and really that doesn’t help too much


Bhosley t1_iu5uxah wrote

But if they're cheaper to produce, as the article claims, the manufacturers have more flexibility in price. They'll want to move towards the market equilibrium with the highest profit. Which will probably mean lower cost to capture a greater customer participation.

I expect the hype would be enough to keep a relatively high consumer demand. And if they aren't efficient enough to pay for themselves in energy costs the producers can always greenwash/pr some extra demand. And if they are large enough could push for tax credits on these too.

I am also left wondering if they'll be efficient enough for residential use (doubt it for a long time). Maybe they'll only ever make sense for large corporate buildings.


zebtacular t1_iu5vvxi wrote

Cheaper to produce usually doesn’t translate cost savings to the consumer as it should, more likely just will be used to increase their profit margin. Just going off of current events.


Bhosley t1_iu5xy3e wrote

That falls within what I said. The only reason anyone drops prices is if it means the increased number of customers translates to greater profits.

But lately, lack of competition is pushing equilibrium in the favor of the ever decreasing number of corporations. I wish we (in the US) would have some serious trust-busting coming from our government. It would solve so many problems...


DirtysMan t1_iu5yasn wrote

Solar panels are cheaper than any form of energy besides geothermal, with or without subsidies.


zebtacular t1_iu5yxht wrote

That’s not the discussion. If a home builder is pricing windows and these “solar panel” windows are 4x the cost of a transitional window, they will opt to install the standard window. Coming from someone who built their home, I couldn’t afford to install something at a 4x markup vs traditional items that late in the building process when budgets are running thin and overages are piling up.


DirtysMan t1_iu782om wrote

So you don’t understand how financing works? Here, let me explain how money works with actual adults instead of straw men.

You see, when you finance solar panels while building a house you make a small monthly payment for it. You don’t actually pay all of the money up front.

Even better, you can make more power than you use and sell it back to the utilities. So instead of an electric bill of $150 a month, you get paid $30 a month for a net saving of $180 a month.

That $180 a month is more than the cost of financing, and therefore you save money every month.


HardwareRaidIsDead t1_iu6isvg wrote

This means high rise buildings, skylights, and sun rooms can be power generator's.

Car windows world be a very good use case as it takes power to maintain the battery packs of electric cars as they have cooling and heating in them.