Buildings clad in glass look fantastic, however life in a glass building is just that little bit more difficult (especially with stone throwers -Ed). In hot climates, you need adjustable blinds and air conditioning to keep it livable. In cold climes you’ve got to cover them up or all that hard-earned heat just pours out the window.
Well the clever people at Peer + might have just found the solution with their, Smart Energy Glass. It looks like ordinary glass but it has photovoltaic properties that generate power. What’s more, the user can adjust the opacity of the glass for comfort, which also affects the amount of power the window generates. Darken the window and you generate more power, turn it opaque and you’ll get full power. The power goes back into the window to operate the effect, and any leftover goes into the grid somehow (it would be DC). Sound too good to be true? Perhaps. There is remarkably little in the way of hard information on their website.
There are a couple of other issues as well. For starters most panels will be installed vertically on buildings, thus they won’t see much direct sun until morning or afternoon when the sun’s brightness is already attenuated by the atmosphere. Furthermore countries in or near the tropics, where Smart Energy Glass would be ideal to reduce sun load, spend large parts of the year with the sun almost directly overhead, again reducing the Smart Energy Glass effectiveness.
In the higher latitudes, SEG may work better with the lower angle of the sun and if it can retain interior heat when it’s turned opaque. The final issue is almost always going to be cost. The website explains that the windows can pay for themselves with energy savings and power generation, but over how long? And if you want something that can generate power and block the sun right now, how about the uglier alternative of external louvres with solar panels on them?
Don’t get me wrong, I am totally in love with the idea of Smart Energy Glass and the benefits are obvious and wonderful. The trouble seems to be the devil in the details, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
How can I control both the climate and the light intensity in a glass facade? And at the same time keep the energy demand low? Smart Energy Glass is able to control incident solar radiation and use the blocked light. The light is turned into electricity and used for switching the glass.