February 9, 2016
SolarWindow Technologies Inc. plans to change the way we think about solar with a new kind of renewable energy technology. The company has set its solar windows apart from traditional solar panels in a number of ways; the most important being transparency. In a recent interview with Tech Correspondent Aidan Kelly, SolarWindow CEO John Conklin discusses the technology, its advantages and what the future holds for his company.
(Aidan Kelly) Can you give us a basic walk through of the SolarWindow technology?
(John Conklin) SolarWindow is much different from traditional solar PV technology. Whether we’re talking about a crystalline silicon module or a thin film module, all of those panels are opaque, you cannot see through them. In contrast, SolarWindow is what we refer to as “OPV” or “organic photovoltaic” and it’s based on layers that are so thin they allow light to pass though them. Our technology can be coated on glass and flexible plastic, and can be tuned based on light and color for the amount of power that needs to be produced.
(AK) What are some advantages that your technology has over rooftop solar arrays?
(JC) The biggest advantage is transparency. Conventional PV modules, including thin film, are inherently opaque, thus impossible to see through. Our technology is transparent, you can see through it, and it’s specifically developed for an insulated glass window. Our coatings are also largely organic, which means they’re primarily hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Another advantage is that we apply these coatings as liquid, so our manufacturing process is much less finicky than that of thin film and conventional PV, which require some pretty intense pressures and vacuums, and thus an intense amount of energy.
(AK) What kind of lifespan does a SolarWindow have?
(JC) When the window glass is produced, our coating goes on one side of that glass. Then, another piece of glass is brought together, and it’s put inside an extrusion with the frame, and then we have an insulated glass window. The warranty of that window is generally 10-15 years. The durability, the reliability and the degradation aspects of our coating are being developed in such a way that, if the window fails, it’s not our technology that fails.
(AK) There are a number of varieties of your windows in tint and transparency, which combination does your team anticipate being most popular?
(JC) SolarWindow comes in an array of colors, and each one of those colors has a varying degree of light transmission and produces a different level of power. It would be just like a color wheel; when the color is determined, and in our case when the power is determined, then the level of transparency and the color of those windows can be selected to pair up with that power requirement.
We find that this changes based on the architect and where the building is located geographically. For example, we see that in the UAE a blue-green tint tends to be extremely popular. We also know that in Asia, the brown-grey tint is least preferred because of the light that casts through it and how they feel about that light. Whereas in North America we see buildings that are blue-green, brown-grey, and any other color in between. We see it going in many different directions, so we’ve made a range of colors.
(AK) Does the color of the SolarWindow make a difference in electricity generation?
(JC) It does, but the bigger aspect of it is how transparent it is. We can make a SolarWindow a blue-green color, we can make it a very high transparency, say a 80-90 percent transparent, and it will have power X. And we know if we take that same blue-green window and make it almost opaque, that it will have a different level of power. The difference there has to do with visible light transmission.
(AK) It seems your target market it mainly large commercial buildings in urban areas. Will you market SolarWindow at a residential level, as well?
(JC) We do have a product carve-out for residential window applications. But our initial go-to-market strategy is commercial buildings, tall towers and skyscrapers. Though they may not be in an urban setting. For example, more and more health care facilities are going to all glass buildings. There are a number of these that are being developed outside of urban environments, and those are wonderful candidates for our technology.
(AK) What is in store for SolarWindow Technologies in 2016?
(JC) 2016 is going to be pretty exciting for us. We want to make SolarWindow bigger, and while making SolarWindow bigger we want to be able to keep uniformity constant and increase power production. We are also looking to raise more capital, develop strategic commercial partnerships, and demonstrate manufacturability and integration into the manufacturing process.
(AK) When can we expect to see SolarWindow commercially available?
(JC) Our eyes are set on a pre-commercial launch of year end 2017, keeping in mind that our strategic partners will have a tremendous impact on the commercialization schedule for high volume production and where those products will be released.
Learn more about SolarWindow Technologies Inc.
Thank you to John Conklin and SolarWindow Technologies
Photo Credit: SolarWindow Technologies Inc.