Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Solar Window Revolution

The dream of constructing a net zero-energy building has yet to become a reality, but now an Israeli company has come up with an idea that could make it possible.

The innovative product from Pythagoras Solar can be described as a solar window that combines energy efficiency, power generation and transparency.

The world's first transparent photovoltaic glass unit (PVGU) has been designed to be easily integrated into conventional building design and construction processes. This means that existing office blocks can be retrofitted with the new material instead of energy-seeping glass windows - a process that will pay itself back within five years.

In June, Pythagoras Solar's breakthrough was selected from nearly 5,000 entrants as a winner of the prestigious GE Ecomagination Challenge, which recognizes the most promising innovations for capturing, managing and using energy in buildings.

Buildings are the largest consumers of energy worldwide and among the least efficient. According to the United States Department of Energy, building operations account for up to 39 percent of the country’s total energy consumption and 70 percent of its power plant generated electricity, while 34 percent of this energy is lost through poor building efficiency. Not surprisingly, the American Solar Energy Society estimates that approximately 43 percent of US and 9 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions result from the energy services required to service these buildings.

Solar power is the most promising long-term, clean, renewable energy resource with potential to deliver 120,000 terawatts compared to non-solar renewable energy sources’ capacity to provide 7-10 terawatts (Global electricity demand is expected to reach 30 terawatts by 2030). Yet, solar power remains largely untapped. While the photovoltaic solar power generation has grown at an exponential rate over the last few years including a record 5.95 gigawatts installed in 2008 -- a 110 percent increase vs. 2007, it still represents less than one percent of the overall electricity generated worldwide.

Having developed the product, the company carried out pilot projects last year in several commercial buildings in the US and Israel. As proof of concept, two windows in the Sears Tower in Chicago were replaced with PVGU.

Founded in 2007, Pythagoras is based in Silicon Valley, and much of the production takes place in Los Angeles. The company's R & D center is in Israel.

Source: Israel 21c

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