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Transparent Solar Panels

Updated: Feb 26

To be clear, these do sound too good to be true. Imagine the amount of power that could be generated if every glass surface could collect solar power. Glass is everywhere, which provides the added bonus of not having to adjust building designs to accommodate traditional solar panels.

As Indonesia strives towards a clean-energy future, solar energy is one of our strongest alternatives to fossil fuels. But, what exactly are transparent solar technologies? Can we really generate electricity from windows in homes, offices, cars, or even smartphones?

Transparent solar has recently garnered attention as a cutting-edge technology that gathers and uses light energy through any glass surface, regardless of the angle.

The technology is called photovoltaic glass, and it's manufactured to provide a ranging level of transparency. In 2014, researchers and the Michigan State University (MSU) developed an entirely transparent solar concentrator, meaning it could be used for any glass sheet or window. By 2020, scientists in the US and Europe achieved 100% transparency for solar glass.

In terms of engineering, several means of transparent solar technology have been created. The majority of them function as a sort of transparent solar concentrator, meaning they absorb specific UV and infrared light wavelengths that aren't visible to the naked eye, and transform them into energy capable of powering electronics.

Just last year, the Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building of MSU installed transparent solar glass panels. The panels used in this project were developed and manufactures by Ubiquitous Energy along with Richard Lunt, Professor of Engineering and Materials Science at MSU. Lunt is co-founder of Ubiquitous Energy.

"Transparent solar glass expands the options of solar panels tremendously... There is no longer a trade-off between aesthetics and renewable energy." says Lunt.

In Europe, the Copenhagen International School's design utilizes 12,000-hued, but clear, solar panels all over the building. This produces 200 MWh - more than half of the energy the building consumes.

The building was designed by C.F. Moller, a leading Scandinavian architectural firm, which was awarded the Iconic Award 2017 for the project.

However, the technology is still at the cutting edge, meaning it could be some time before it becomes commonplace to use. With Indonesia still struggling to transition from coal to traditional solar power, we'll have to see whether or not this technology manages to catch on in Indonesia.

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