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Solar Squared: CoolTechStuff

Larry Mortimer, AIA

As the renewable energy industry is maturing we are beginning to have many more choices at our disposal, and photovoltaics is leading the charge (no pun intended).   We’ve had many photovoltaic options for some time now, but few that integrate into the building envelope itself.  The typical flat solar panels (even the ones with color) usually look like an afterthought.  For integrated options we are pretty much limited to photovoltaic shingles, and photovoltaic window glass.  Here’s an interesting addition to the mix based on research being carried out at the University of Exeter called Solar Squared.

 

What Does It Do:  Solar Squared is a glass block that generates electricity using focused solar energy.

What does it cost: Cost is unknown at this point.  The developer, a company called Build Solar, is currently testing the product. They anticipate a finished product to be available sometime next year.

How Does it Work:  The blocks are transparent and contain thirteen optical elements that each focus incoming sunlight onto an individual solar cell.  Within each block the cells are all linked together, and can be wired to one another.  The developer claims that the solar blocks provide better thermal insulation than conventional glass blocks while still letting much of the natural light pass into the building.  The company plans to offer coatings to control thermal gain and for different colors.

One question I have is what happens if one photovoltaic cell ceases to work?  I can’t imagine opening up a block wall to replace it.

Conclusion:   Solar Squared may become an attractive integrated solution to provide clean energy, however with efficiency and costs still to be determined, that remains to be seen.

More Info:  www.buildsolar.co.uk