transparent solar panels cost

A transparent solar panel is a piece of glass that allows the visible light to pass through while harvesting invisible light such as near-infrared rays and ultraviolet to convert into electricity.  So let us review the Transparent Solar Panels Cost, including the semi transparent solar panels for sale, and transparent solar panels for greenhouses below. The glass we use every day may soon have one function that will revolutionize the way we consume power. Imagine a car that can power itself over and over again or a smart device like a phone or tablet that will never run out of battery life. These are just a couple of examples of what a  transparent solar panel will have the ability to do for us one day. 

As you might expect this technology can be a game-changer for how we can utilize the clear pieces of glass we already use every day that get a massive amount of sun exposure. This article will take you through how the panels work, their efficiency, potential uses, and how they compare to standard photovoltaic panels already in use all over the world. 

HOW DO TRANSPARENT SOLAR PANELS WORK?

Transparent solar panels are quite smart. Professor Richard Lunt, a chemical engineer at Michigan State University, and his team of engineers revolutionized this technology. Transparent solar panels are able to let the wavelengths of the light spectrum we can see pass through the glass, while trapping wavelengths we cannot see, so they can be converted into energy. 

The transparent panels are infused with organic material that is able to capture the near-infrared and ultraviolet rays while letting the light we see pass through. Once captured these rays of light bounce up and down the piece of glass until they reach one of the edges where a thin strip of solar cells is placed to convert that energy into electricity. 

HOW EFFICIENT ARE TRANSPARENT SOLAR PANELS?

The efficiency of a transparent solar panel is approximately 5% according to Professor Lunt. The most efficient solar panels on the market right now have an efficiency rating of closer to 23%. The average panel you see installed on a rooftop or in a ground-mounted array ranges between 15%-18%. This efficiency rating refers to the percentage of sunlight hitting a solar panel that is actually converted into electricity.

Transparent Solar Panels Cost

COMPARING TRANSPARENT SOLAR PANELS AND TRADITIONAL SOLAR PANELS

Transparent solar panels are less efficient per square foot, however, they welcome a whole new way of making our lives more efficient.  If we look at efficiency from a different angle we could argue these panels are highly efficient. Currently, the most popular places to put solar panels are on top of buildings or mounted on a plot of land. High-rise buildings and skyscrapers typically found in cities use vast amounts of power and are much taller than they are wide, giving little space on the roof to put panels. 

Meanwhile, the sides of these buildings are mostly windows. A plot of land is great if it is in the middle of nowhere and no one is using it at the moment, but that is still land that could be used for other things in the future. Moreover, having the panels way out away from people who use electricity means it has a long way to travel. A large amount of electricity gets lost while moving through transformers and power lines over long distances, so how efficient are the solar panel farms really?

Transparent solar panels provide efficiency on a different level. Most importantly, they can be installed anywhere we are already using clear glass windows or glass screens. Having a “see-through” glass option for solar panels, we can allow light to shine through our windows, making it possible to reduce the use of electric lights in those rooms and buildings. Think about tall skyscrapers. 

A building could be 1,000 feet tall by 50 feet wide by 50 feet deep. This building would have a roof space of 50 feet x 50 feet, which equals 2,500 square feet of space for rooftop solar panels. Meanwhile, this same building would boast 1,000 feet x 50 feet of space on each side, which equals 200,000 square feet of surface area. That 200,000 square feet may be made up of mostly windows, which could be converted to power-producing transparent solar panels. Much more power produced in the same amount of space. 

On a much smaller scale, all our many smart devices from tablets to cell phones to electronic readers could all be built with a transparent solar panel screen for easy charging whenever outside during the day.

Even though the transparent solar panel currently lacks in light absorption efficiency, it excels in functionality for our world that uses see-through glass surfaces all day long.   

HOW CAN TRANSPARENT SOLAR PANELS BE USED?

Transparent solar panels will be most useful for commercial buildings as mentioned above. The other ways they can impact our lives is charging mobile devices with a glass component, a car that could potentially charge itself while driving or parked outside, and perhaps powering greenhouses that could use affordable electric heat. 

What about the infrastructure we already have in place? The Michigan State team pioneered the development of a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that when placed on a window creates solar energy without disrupting the view. The thin, plastic-like material can be used on buildings, car windows, cell phones or other devices with a clear surface.

WHO MAKES TRANSPARENT SOLAR PANELS?

Sharp – In 2013, Sharp introduced a transparent, but shaded, solar window using dye-sensitized solar cells. The windows are about 40” tall by either 28”, 45”, or 55” wide. Their production equates to about 6 watts per sq/ft. Since the announcement Sharp has made no further ones indicating anything progress since then.    

EnergyGlass – EnergyGlass uses “Patented Inorganic Nano Technology” to create transparent solar windows without any visible lines or dots. EnergyGlass between 1-4 Watts per hour depending on the time of day.

The manufacturer claims that users have a 100% field of vision while the energy can be sent back to the grid or in battery storage. EnergyGlass is the furthest along on this list. They produce 4 different versions of solar windows: a basic laminated version, an insulated version, a double insulated version, and a triple insulated version.

Physee (not yet commercially available) – A Dutch start-up that produces what they call the PowerWindow. It is a solar window similar to EnergyGlass that uses the quantum(organic) dots to tarp the unseen light rays. Currently, the company has only one installed project, it is 300 square feet of PowerWindows on a Dutch bank.

Ubiquitous Energy (not yet commercially available) – A startup out of Silicon Valley.  They produce a film that acts as a replacement solar window. The film can be added to a piece of glass and let the visible light through while trapping the invisible. 

They call their product ClearView Power and are still in the testing phase so they remain commercially unavailable. They claim they can see a ‘practical’ efficiency of 10%, which would be as close to PAR with as of these transparent solar panels to traditional ones.

SolarWindow (not yet commercially available) – Another company not ready for commercialization, SolarWindow produces a liquid PV coating that can be applied to pre-existing windows. 

HOW MUCH IS A TRANSPARENT SOLAR PANEL?

A transparent solar panel cost is not available to the public from most companies who produce them and for the ones that do sell them they are not yet financially practical to the public. The cost of these panels compared to the cost of alternative energy sources is still very high. These solar windows currently take a very long time before you see a return on your investment. 

To go deeper into this we will take a look at Sharp’s offering, which actually has some cost information for us. In 2013 they estimated one square meter or 11 square feet would cost approximately $2,000. 

To accurately compare we have to take into account what a window and solar panel would cost for the same size since you are essentially getting two functions in one. A typical double-pane window of this size can vary between $150-$250. 

The standard panel today on average is a 300-watt panel and the price here can vary quite a bit depending on manufacturer, $200-$400 so we will split the difference and say $300. So if you got a $250 window and $300 panel the total cost would $550. That panel also takes up 15 square ft (3’ x 5’) but we do not need to get knit-picky here. This gives us a difference of approximately $1450!

But wait, there’s more! Not only is it 4 times the price it is about a quarter of the efficiency as well. Depending on the brand a 300-watt panel can produce at 16-20% efficiency. The transparent solar window produces 1%-5%. It is just not there yet for the general population but it is definitely something to pay attention to as the panels progress. 

The technology is proven and the future is “bright” for these transparent solar panels. Unfortunately, the future is still a few years away for this technology to be in a place to be mass-produced and introduced to the public. We will stay on top of all new solar and power trends so you can take advantage of them before anyone else. 

TIPS FOR BUYING YOUR SOLAR POWER SYSTEM.

Buying a home solar power system can be a very exciting experience, but don’t get too carried away by advertising. Be sure to focus on the important aspects of your purchase as it’s a substantial investment and one you’ll be living with for a long time. The following are some buying solar tips on what to look for when purchasing a system.

Buying solar tips: Solar quotes online

Recommendations

Ask friends, family neighbours or colleagues who have had solar PV systems installed. Often the best buying solar tips com from right in your neighbourhood. They’ll be able to tell you about their experiences and perhaps alert you to any problems they experienced. Problems that you’ll be able to avoid. Learn more about potential issues in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

Length of manufacturer’s warranty

Take note of what guarantees the manufacturer offers. If the manufacturer is reputable and the warranty period on the panels is substantial (at least 25 years) you would naturally expect your solar system to last long for a long time, long enough to pay for itself and make you a profit. However, for a warranty to be honoured, the manufacturer needs to be still operating. So, be cautious of brands without a track record in Australia.

Have realistic price expectations

If you are paying substantially less than many other similar size systems quoted, you may find poor quality equipment and/or poor installation work. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap and, like all other purchases, you often get what you pay for.

Compare components and warranty periods and check into the company providing the installation. While large, well established companies can pass on substantial savings due to increased buying power, other companies often reduce costs by cutting important corners.

Solar panel certifications

This applies to all solar panel purchases, but especially to the purchases that could attract a government rebate. The certification on solar panels indicates the type of testing that they have undergone. For instance, TUV IEC 61215 confirms that the solar panels have gone through testing by an independent laboratory and have met their advertised specifications. Other certification types are often self-assessed. Therefore, they rely on the company being honest in what it claims.

Decide on the type of panels

It used to be the case that if you had limited roof space you would need highly efficient (and very expensive) mono-crystalline solar panels. This is rapidly changing with advances in polycrystalline panel technology and some thin film technologies. Still, even if you have ample roof space you may still want to consider panel sizes vs. output. Filling up your roof with inefficient panels will affect your ability to add more panels at a later date, and does not maximise the power output of the space.

It’s also important to bear in mind that regardless of claim, no solar panel technology will produce a significant amount of power in full shade. Learn more about monocrystalline vs. thin film panels.

Solar panel mounting

Make sure that the roof, ground mounting or tracking system is engineer certified for the area you are in. For example, if you live in a cyclone prone area make sure the mounting system  and mounting brackets are also cyclone rated. Quality systems are wind certified. After all you do not want your system to take off during a wild storm . The mounting system is a very vital component and some suppliers skimp on this item. Make sure you ask about wind certification, warranty arrangements and get copies of relevant documents.

Solar inverter efficiency

A power inverter is the box between the panels and your appliances that converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC suitable for use in your home.

Not all solar inverters are equal and inverter efficiency will have a direct impact on the amount of time it takes for a system to pay for itself. Look at the inverter efficiency before purchasing a system. Obviously, the more efficient the inverter the better. Less electricity will be wasted as heat during the conversion from DC to AC. Industry leading solar inverters for grid connect systems in Australia include SMA, Sungrow and Fronius. Be cautious of  generic type brands.

Get a few solar quotes

It always wise to gather a few solar quotes when making a major purchase as you will find that prices vary widely between providers. But don’t be just swayed by price as inferior components can reduce the up-front cost of the system. However, they may wind up costing you more in the long run in terms of reliability and efficiency.

Buy solar power at discount prices

Avoid high pressure sales people

High pressure sales tactics are unfortunately common in the solar industry. Try not to make decisions on the spot, just ask the person to let you consider the offer. If it’s as good as they claim, it will still be a good deal tomorrow. Pressured decisions on the spot often turn out to be less advantageous in reflection.

High pressure sales people are only one of the pitfalls that may await you when you shop for a solar power system. Learn more about the potential issues and how to avoid them in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

One of the best buying solar tips is to make sure to use an accredited solar power system installer, certified by the Clean Energy Council.

HOW TO BUY SOLAR PANELS

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How to Buy Solar Panels

Are you thinking about buying a solar panel system but don’t know where to start? You came to the right place!SEI PV Design ManualA Really Great Read

Before we dive in to the specifics of solar panels (a.k.a. PV modules, solar electric panels), let us remind you that energy efficiency and conservation are the best ways to reduce your energy foot print and your electrical bill (see our Energy Efficiency and Your Home article). Please actively explore and incorporate all avenues of efficiency before pursuing a home solar panel system. That being said, solar power is an exciting clean-energy option that is becoming more and more popular. Solar electricity is a fascinating topic. To really feed your curiosity, we highly recommend the book PHOTOVOLTAICS: DESIGN & INSTALL MANUAL.

What shapes, sizes and types do solar panels come in?

Solar panels vary in length and width and are often about 2 inches thick. They are generally about 30 pounds or less, but the larger solar panels can be cumbersome to carry onto the roof. We carry a wide selection of solar panels for home use: framed, foldable, and rollable.

  • Framed solar panels are the industry standards. They are the most cost effective and applicable for most home solar panels applications.
  • Foldable solar panels are lightweight (less than 5 pounds) and can fold up and fit easily in a backpack.
  • Flexible (or rollable) solar panels are also lightweight but bulkier than the foldable panels. Many people use these rollable solar panels on boats because they are durable and can be easily stowed after use.

Generally thin-film laminate type of solar panels (foldable & flexible) are more expensive per watt and require more square footage to produce the same wattage of an equally sized framed module.

What size solar panels do I need for my home and how many?

The number of solar panels you will need depends primarily upon the amount of electricity you are trying to produce and the insolation in your area. Solar insolation can be thought of as the number of hours in the day that the solar panel will produce its rated output. This is not equivalent to the number of daylight hours. Read more about insolation in our How To section and get an idea of the insolation in your area: Solar Insolation Map – USA.

You’ll find solar panels in a variety of wattages. Watts are the main measure of a solar panel, along with nominal voltage. For a rough idea of how many watts of solar panels you will need for your home, start by dividing your electrical usage (in watt-hours per day) by the solar insolation in your area. Bump that number up by 30-50% (to cover system inefficiencies) and you’ll have an idea of the number of watts of solar panels total you will need. If that number is more than 1000 watts, you are talking about $4K to $8K or more for the solar electric system. (Could we take this opportunity to mention the importance of energy efficiency again?!) If you could still use a little help with the math, please give us a call and tell us how much electricity you are trying to produce (in kwh/month or watt-hours/ day) and your location, and we’ll help get you started.

What types of solar panels are there?

Most solar panels can be classified as monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous. This is based on the silicon structure that comprises the cell. It’s not quite as complicated as it sounds. Basically a 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel should have the same output as a 100 watt polycrystalline solar panel and a 100 watt amorphous solar panel. The main difference is the amount of area which the solar panel occupies. Because the monocrystalline structure is more efficient than amorphous (and only very slighlty more so than polycrystalline) in turning sunlight into electricity, the amorphous solar panel of the same wattage will be physically larger. By the way, when talking about efficiency of solar panels, keep in mind that solar panel efficiency is still only about 13-18% efficient in turning sunlight into electricity. Often amorphous solar panels are less expensive than the crystalline panels. If space is not an issue, then an amorphous panel could be a great option. Additionally, amorphous solar panels perform better than crystalline solar panels in very hot temperatures and are also slightly more tolerant of partial shading.

Solar Energy for Home Heating & Cooling

Please keep in mind that solar panels produce electricity, and should not be used to produce electricity for heating or cooling sources. If heating is your main issue, be sure to check out Solar Air Heaters and Solar Water Heaters. Solar air heating and solar water heating are examples of solar thermal technologies which produce heat, but not electricity (and are much more cost effective than solar panels). While solar electric panels are not an economically feasible choice to power your air conditioning, a solar panel can power an attic fan that can help reduce the amount of time you use your AC.

Locating your Panels – Very Important!

A key factor in the effective use of solar electricity is proper placement of the solar panels. Make sure to locate the panels where they will receive full sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Be sure that the solar panels will not be shaded by shadows from tree branches, chimneys, other structures, etc. Once again – NO SHADE! You will be mounting the solar panels on the roof, the ground or a pole. For more information on the proper placement solar electric panels, please checkout the How To for Solar Panel Mounting article.

How Long will Solar Panels Last?

Solar panels use the sun’s light to generate electricity. They generate electricity during sunny daylight hours and can be used in a system with batteries so that the electricity can be used at other times as well. Also known as Photovoltaic (PV) modules, solar panels are the main component of a solar electric system. Along with an inverter, mounting system, batteries and Solar Charge Controllers, solar panels can produce electricity to power the energy efficient appliances and lights and appliances in most households. Solar panels themselves generally last over 25 years, and require little maintenance. Many of the first solar panels produced in the 50s are still in use today. Many of the solar panels have a 20 year warranty or more. A common warranty states that the panels will produce at least 80% of their rated power after 20 years.

What else will I Need with a Solar Panel?

In addition to the solar panel mounting hardware, there are additional components that you will need for a safe installation. If you plan on using just one solar panel in a battery based system (an off-grid system), you will need a solar charge controller and overcurrent protection to protect each major component of your system: solar panels, solar charge controller, deep cycle batteries, and inverter. If you plan on using more solar panels in your system, you will also need to safely wire the photovoltaic solar panels together and to the charge controller. An easy and safe way to do this is by using MC (multi contact) connectors. These connectors connect to the cables coming from the solar panel and can be cut in half to expose bare wire. Combiner & pass-through boxes are used to collect the bare ends of the wire from multiple solar panels; then from the combiner box you can run just one set of wires to the solar charge controller. For each series string of solar panels, you will need an appropriate sized breaker.

That’s a lot of components to figure out! If after reading all this you are a little confused but even more excited about solar energy, what’s next? Well, you can read more about solar panel systems. Also, our AltE U offers in-person workshops in Massachusetts and Ohio, as well as free education online videos. If you are considering installing your own solar electric system or installing PV (photovoltaic panels) as a business, be sure to check out our series of three classes beginning with our Basic Photovoltaic and Site Assessment class.

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