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Inspired Ethonomics

Smart Windows: Good for Seeing Through, Generating Electricity Too

smart glass

Photovoltaic solar power may be the bees knees in green power cleverness, but you still have to work out how to mount the panels on your building. That's going to be much easier now a Dutch company has combined them with windows.

PV panels aren't exactly the most attractive of household additions, in their typical "we just bolted these suckers onto your shingles" installation (though they are much more visually attractive than the solar heating units the come with the ugly cylindrical water tanks on the top.) There are fresh re-inventions that are tackling this problem, like the neat PV solar roof tiles, but they're not universally suitable.

Whereas every home has windows. And this fact has led Dutch company Peer+ to create Smart Energy Glass panels that generate current from the sun while also acting as like those old-fashioned devices that lets you see right through a wall. But that's not all. Similar to the other up-and-coming LCD glass treatments that let you blank a window at the flick of a switch (removing the need for curtains, blinds or shutters,) these smart windows also have selectable darkness. Darkest is the highest privacy mode, and thanks to a trick of the optics concerned, also leads to the most efficient power generation from solar input. And you can even choose between a range of shades for the glass and also incorporate logos or text into the panels, which will appeal to countless businesses.

But before you think I'm leaping at this invention over-enthusiastically, let me explain why it's important. The reason is a simple one: Style. Sure, you may lose some of the potential efficiency of this solar PV generation tech compared to specialist dedicated panels that are carefully aligned at the right angle to the average solar incidence direction for your home. But these things look good. And if green tech is to achieve serious adoption by the public (and architects too,) then design really has to play into things at some point. This solution, much like those solar tiles, is a neat way of leveraging this.