The days of traditional solar panels may be numbered, as a number of new options head towards the market. Often, it’s the simplest solution is that yield the best results, in this case, the major problem being addressed was that solar panels take up a lot of space and look terrible. The question became how solar could be incorporated into a home without needing to occupy the entire roof and potentially only seeing the sun for a portion of the day. Many options have been floated, including the astoundingly impractical and the highly innovative. However, researchers at the University of Exeter may have come up with a solution that would enable homeowners to harness the power of solar without needing to drag massive panels up to the roof.
The researchers have created thick glass squares which allow light to pass through, while still harnessing energy. They are designed to act as skylights and to be included in the design of the home, rather than an addition to the outside of the property. Cleverly, the blocks have been designed so they can be connected together and are thick enough that they provide a layer of insulation. This makes them a viable alternative to decorative windows or opaque glass. This has the potential to mean that a house can be far more effective in harnessing the sun’s energy, in that it will be able to do so all day long from whatever vantage point is most beneficial. All homeowners will need to do is allow space for solar windows in key areas and the job will be done.
This is an exciting step towards the holy grail of solar – solar windows. Completely clear and built into the house like a normal window, solar windows will translate to an astonishing amount of effectiveness with very little effort being required on the part of the homeowner. At this stage, there is no commercial solution coming close to genuine windows, but with research heading in the right direction, it shouldn’t be long until efficient solar energy is something that new homeowners can take for granted.