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New ‘transparent’ solar panels could turn cities into power stations

Generating energy from the sun may have just got a little easier and a lot prettier

Train station in Perpignan. (Pic: Issolsa)

Train station in Perpignan. (Pic: Issolsa)

By Nilima Choudhury

Transparent solar cells that can slide over windows could turn cities into mini solar power plants say Spanish researchers.

See-through ‘organic’ solar cells could allow developers to attach large panels to some of the world’s most iconic buildings, such as the London Shard, Louvre Pyramid or Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Published in the journal Nature Photonics, the research suggests building integrated photovoltaics, also known as BIPV, could be rolled out at scale in the next few years.

One of the most complex BIPV systems in the world so far completed was unveiled last year at Kings Cross Station in London.

“Applications for this type of technology in BIPV [building integrated photovoltaics] are just a few steps away, but the technology has not reached its saturation point yet,” said Jordi Martorell, UPC Professor at ICFO and leader of the study.

“ICFO’s discovery opens the path for innovation to other industrial applications of transparent photovoltaics. In the midterm we expect to reach the extremely high transparencies and efficiencies needed to power up devices such as displays, tablets, smart phones.”

Organic solar cells have recently made rapid progress in recent years, and are seen as one of the most promising technologies in the field of next-generation photovoltaics.

Mitsubishi, which is playing a leading role in this sector, aims to enter the commercialisation stage by 2014-2015.

Director of London-based architecture firm Space Group, Martin Gruenanger told RTCC that he believes his peers should certainly be looking into this sort of technology.

“Due to [its] low efficiency this technology is perhaps still ignored as far as conventional buildings are concerned but as always things will improve and find their ideal use.”

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  • Andrew Chapman

    Hmmm… Very innovative… The see through solar panels is a new concept…