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Now your architectural glass can produce power

Sharp Corp. (TYO:6753) announced in a press release a semi-transparent black architectural glass panel that has build in photovoltaic generation (aka solar power) capabilities.

The panel is 4.5-ft. x 3.2ft -- about the size of a glass coffee table.  It is a slender 0.37 in. thick.  Sharp brags the panel is "beautifully in harmony with the building".

The panel is laminated glass infused with semi-transparent thin film solar cells.  The cells both generate power and act as a natural insulator serving as a heat barrier.  Plus their black color could offer an extra degree of privacy to residents in buildings with the panels.

The panel can produce up to 95 watts at 6.8 percent efficiency [source] -- not great, but okay when you consider its multi-utility (construction, privacy, insulation, and generation).

Sharp solar panels
An artist's depiction of a building equipped with the special glass panels. [Image Source: Sharp Japan]

The panel will start shipping in Japan on Oct. 1, but no U.S. date has been announced.  Also not announced was one critical metric -- pricing in Japan.

Sources: Sharp [translated], CNET



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Worth ANY upcharge?
By Dorkyman on 9/26/2012 3:11:53 PM , Rating: 5
Okay, so "95 watts" under completely optimum conditions. So using them in a non-optimal manner on a fixed structure will deliver, say, 10 watts over a 24-hour period, don't you think? So given a higher cost of installation and maintenance does this application accomplish anything besides stroking a greenie's ego?




RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By aurareturn on 9/26/12, Rating: -1
RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By Breathless on 9/26/2012 3:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
His question is actually legitimate


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By autoboy on 9/26/2012 6:32:46 PM , Rating: 3
Agree his question is legit. Especially when you see the extremely sub optimal placement as the railing of a building. My panels only produce meaningful electricity when the sun is hitting them pretty square. On their edge you would get very poor use out of these panels. Plus, you have to run electrical wiring to all those panels and you'll need additional electronics to convert the DC to AC current.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By MadMan007 on 9/26/12, Rating: 0
RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By FITCamaro on 9/26/2012 9:19:43 PM , Rating: 1
Except its accurate since that's all that most "green" technology is good for.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By Masospaghetti on 9/26/2012 3:44:30 PM , Rating: 2
A location that yielded sun about 10% of the time (your example) would obviously be a bad choice no matter what type of solar cell was used.

This new design trades easy integration for efficiency. If the cells are cheap enough, an entire building using these instead of tinted glass could reap significant energy savings. There wouldn't be much additional installation cost except running a couple wires along each wall.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By fic2 on 9/26/2012 4:16:30 PM , Rating: 3
Well, just about any location is only going to yield 50% to start with considering that most places on earth do experience night. Then you add that this is fixed to the side of a building so you can cut that down to ~25% since it will only get semi-direct sun for 1/4 of the day. And that would be an optimal placing and doesn't account for shifting sun during the seasons or even during the day I would say his 10% is a pretty good swag for just about any fixed location on the side of a building.

It basically comes down to how much this costs over a regular panel that it replaces, how much your local electricity costs and what the ROI is.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By Flunk on 9/26/2012 4:21:06 PM , Rating: 1
All places on earth experience night, it's just longer some places than others.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By boeush on 9/26/2012 4:21:46 PM , Rating: 4
10 watts over a 24-hour period is still 240 watt-hours. Four of these panels, therefore, amount to 1 kWh per day even under VERY sub-optimal conditions.

U.S. household electricity usage (as of 2007) was about 2,000 kWh per capita per year ( http://www.physics.uci.edu/~silverma/actions/House... ), which works out to about 5.5 kWh per capita per day. Thus, even under worst-case conditions, 4 of these panels would supply something like 10% of 2007 U.S. daily electricity demand for a household of 2 (and in the meantime, most of our appliances -- from lights, to computers, to TV sets, to refrigerators -- have been getting considerably more efficient over the last 5 years, so these figures might be excessively high even for U.S., and never mind Japan or any other countries with much lower per-capita energy consumption...)

Also, in sunny-weather locations, such as southern CA, NV, AZ, NM, TX (never mind more-tropical countries like Mexico, central America), typical output would be MUCH higher.

Aside from direct benefits of energy generation, there is one other thing this application accomplishes -- and it is typical for the myopic green-tech bashers to be chronically blind to such benefits. Namely, it creates a profitable product line that, if it generates revenue for the company, will drive the company to continue optimizing the product, and might lure other companies into creating competing products. In the long term, this drives emergence of ever more efficient and ever cheaper sources of renewable energy. Investing now in what may be relatively expensive and inefficient tech, may not have an immediate pay-off, but it gets the ball rolling and paves the way for the future. It is the egg absent which you'll never have the chicken.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By Keeir on 9/26/2012 10:40:13 PM , Rating: 4
Sigh.

If a 1.33 sq meter panel produces 95 Watt at 6.8% efficieny, that means they were hitting it with ~1100 Watt/sq meter. Or over a 24 hours period, 2.3 kWh/day produced from 26.4 kWh/sq meter/day

http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1961-19...

Using a South Facing Vertical Plate, Southern California has a yearly average value of ~4.5 kWh/sq meter.

Thus, a rail or window installation with zero blockage, facing south, would produce on average .4 kWh/day in the most ideal situation in the US. You seem to think that four panels would produce 1 kWh per day even under "Very sub-optimal conditions". The truth is to get four panels to 1.2 kWh per day assumes VERY optimal conditions. I'd be surprized if in Japan there are any vertical installations (as shown) that surpass even .3 kWh per day per panel.

Overall, the Panel on a yearly basis would be worth ~15 dollars per panel per year if installed in Southern California. (.35 kWh X 356 x 13 cents per kWh)

I'd only be willing to pay an extra 150 upfront for panel cost and installation costs per each panel. I assume washing will need to be frequent and maintainence costs would be increased versus standard glass windows, so I might not even be willing to go so high.

Overall, if I saw a building project using these as shown, I'd be inclinded to agree with the original poster. It would be greenwashing, the panels are unlikely to produce significantly more solar power than Nuclear/Coal/NG power used to make them in the first place.

Now, used in south face of a tilted skylight, in Southern California without trees or other buildings blocking the light, It might start being worth 300 or 400 a panel. Still probably a greenwash, but not nearly as bad a low lying hand rails.

quote:
benefits. Namely, it creates a profitable product line that, if it generates revenue for the company, will drive the company to continue optimizing the product, and might lure other companies into creating competing products.


And what Green Glassed folks seem to forget is that money is not free. Company A that uses these panels over a cheaper non-solar alternative has less capital/assests to invest in other technologies.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By FITCamaro on 9/27/2012 9:02:53 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Company A that uses these panels over a cheaper non-solar alternative has less capital/assests to invest in other technologies.


That doesn't matter for government. For them money is "free". As long as you have paper anyway.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By JPForums on 9/27/2012 1:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
The one nice thing about these panels is that they serve a purpose other than power generation. They are meant to be put in place of tinted or frosted glass. If they were somehow cheaper than their alternative (not bloody likely), they would justify their cost without even considering power generation.
quote:
I'd only be willing to pay an extra 150 upfront for panel cost and installation costs per each panel.
For new installations/planned renovations, which are the target market, this "extra $150" should be beyond the cost of whatever you were planning to put there in the first place. Perhaps that is what you meant, but I was unclear on that.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By boeush on 9/27/2012 7:13:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Using a South Facing Vertical Plate, Southern California has a yearly average value of ~4.5 kWh/sq meter. Thus, a rail or window installation with zero blockage, facing south, would produce on average .4 kWh/day in the most ideal situation in the US.
According to this source (NREL):

http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1961-19...

-- pretty much all of the U.S. is between 3 and 4 kWh/m^2/day for a south-facing vertical plate. Let's use 3 as the most conservative number.

3 * 1.33 * 0.068 = 0.27 kWh/day per panel.

For 4 panels, that amounts to 1.08 kWh/day. Almost anywhere in the U.S. And that's yearly average. Based on real-life measurements (not anywhere close to ideal conditions.) If we take a 4 kWh/day figure (as would be more typical for SoCal), then we get 0.36 kWh/day per panel, and 1.44 kWh/day for 4 panels -- again, a yearly average under non-ideal conditions (assuming only an unobstructed view of the sky and south-facing installation.)

Ideal conditions would include summer months, plus sunny weather (incidentally, also the conditions under which SoCal electricity demand tends to be highest due to intensive AC usage.)

Sigh, indeed.

Now as to your cost calculations, let's remember that SoCal electricity costs more like 19 (not 13) cents per kWh:

http://www.bls.gov/ro9/cpilosa_energy.htm

Now let's use the corrected figures to re-calculate the price of energy replaced yearly by each panel (in SoCal):

0.36 kWh * 0.19 $/kWh * 365 = $25

That makes your ~$15/year rather more of a worst-case estimate. If these panels last 20 years, the payoff is ~$500 per panel in today's dollars (and assuming no additional carbon pricing is put into the markets in the meantime, and assuming electricity won't be dynamically priced based on smart meters and hourly aggregate demand...)
quote:
I'd only be willing to pay an extra 150 upfront for panel cost and installation costs per each panel.
Installation cost is pretty much the same as an ordinary glass panel of similar dimensions, absent the PV capability. The additional cost of running a cable and putting in power plugs, ought to be negligible. The costs of power conditioning and inverter electronics would be distributed over the entire panel array, again probably making the extra installation cost per panel negligible.
quote:
And what Green Glassed folks seem to forget is that money is not free.
And what you seem to neglect is that externalities are not free either. Just because we all get to offload our carbon footprints onto the future generations, doesn't mean they aren't eventually going to be paying (dearly) for our smug profligacy. Now, if the true costs of externalities were included into the market price of energy, I'd be more willing to go along with you free-market types when it comes to letting the markets find the optimal solution. But you all insist that the markets must be permanently biased to benefit the polluting technologies and energy sources. Your version of "free" markets ain't really free either.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By Keeir on 10/25/2012 9:01:44 PM , Rating: 2
::rolls eyes::

Okay.

So, if the Panel was facing -perfectly- south, had -zero- blockage, and maintained efficieny without constant washing, you would get ~.25 kWh per day from a panel upto a maximum of .4 kWh per day.

Sorry. This is crazy ideal situation. Relatively few buildings are built to be perfectly square. Relatively few buildings have large expanses that never every have obstruction. Relatively few areas require the type of constant rainfall spaced with sun that ensure the panels keep at peak efficieny.

You also seem to want to use -residental- rates. I am thinking this is more of a business solution than private house. The amount of fixed costs do not makes sense unless you already own a roof-monted solar system or can install far more than the typical residential customer. I guess it would be valid for -apartment- dwellers... except that I personally wouldn't want to live in an apartment facing straight south... and if used to offset the general electrical costs would again fall into business and service rates which are often 50-75% of residential rates.

quote:
Installation cost is pretty much the same as an ordinary glass panel of similar dimensions, absent the PV capability. The additional cost of running a cable and putting in power plugs, ought to be negligible.


Have you ever installed an outdoor electrical system to code? Its not simplely a case of slapping some wire up. Significant work has to go into ensure the wiring is not a fire/shock/safety risk. The concept that it costs "just about the same" is laughable. Now, in a sufficently large installation of panels, the marginal reduction might make the average cost somewhat reasonable.

quote:
nd what you seem to neglect is that externalities are not free either. Just because we all get to offload our carbon footprints onto the future generations, doesn't mean they aren't eventually going to be paying (dearly) for our smug profligacy. Now, if the true costs of externalities were included into the market price of energy, I'd be more willing to go along with you free-market types when it comes to letting the markets find the optimal solution. But you all insist that the markets must be permanently biased to benefit the polluting technologies and energy sources. Your version of "free" markets ain't really free either.


Sure, lets price some Carbon my friend.

Today, a "Carbon offset" costs around 15 dollars per ton. Or 0.0075 dollars per lb.

The US power grid, on average, produces around 1 lb per kWh. Lets throw in a tax of 1 cent per kWh by all means and use it to purchase carbon offsets!

If this panel has a useful life of 20 years, and produces on average .25 kWh per day, it will over 20 years save 14 dollars of Carbon! YAY!!!!


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By jbeenemd on 9/26/2012 10:48:51 PM , Rating: 2
Well first of all, you will not get 24 hours of energy production. At best will get maybe 6 hours and that is if the glass panel is at an optimum angle. I don't see these being anywhere near 10% efficient even at an appropriate placement. The angle that windows are placed is not conducive to any energy production. Now having said all that, I say let them price these puppies and then let the bean counters make an educated decision on putting these on their buildings.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By tayb on 9/26/2012 4:41:21 PM , Rating: 5
Given that pricing was not mentioned in the article how can you possibly calculate whether or not it is worth the added expense? It's a window that acts as a power generating panel that adds extra heat shielding and privacy. Depending on how long this thing is designed to last it may pay for itself many times over but we don't know because the price isn't mentioned.

Why do people go into bash mode when they hear about solar? We're getting better. The fact that 6.5% is now considered poor is incredible.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By JPForums on 9/27/2012 1:40:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The fact that 6.5% is now considered poor is incredible.
Indeed, but that doesn't make the current crop good enough. We still have a ways to go before solar panels become effective solutions. There are three improvements I can think of that could push solar into viability, efficiency, cost, flexibility, or a combination of these. Efficiency is marching forward slowly but surely. Cost is coming down, but usually (unfortunately) at the expense of efficiency. Sharp's new panels address the flexibility issue (at least in part). Panels need to be easier to install with wider absorption angles to broaden field of possible installations.
quote:
Given that pricing was not mentioned in the article how can you possibly calculate whether or not it is worth the added expense?
Here's hoping it is priced reasonably over alternate frosted/tinted/insulating glass.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By omgwtf8888 on 9/26/2012 4:49:22 PM , Rating: 2
Of course he is a skeptic... he lives where the sun don't shine!


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By zephyrprime on 9/26/2012 5:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
The majority of the cost of a solar panel is actually in the installation. The cost efficacy of a panel like this comes from the fact that in new construction, you already need to pay someone to install your glass panels anyway. As a stand alone installation on existing construction, a panel like this is very cost ineffective compared to a dedicated solar panel.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By wordsworm on 9/26/2012 9:53:57 PM , Rating: 2
There would be another step, however. All the panels would need to be wired. So, a regular panel installation would not quite be the same. That said, I think stuff like this is pretty cool.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By JPForums on 9/27/2012 1:23:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The majority of the cost of a solar panel is actually in the installation.
Bingo! Though, there is some added cost in wire installation.

Another point working in Sharp's favor is that these panels are intended to replace tinted or frosted glass installations. As such, they only need to justify the cost above and beyond the cost of the glass that was originally going to be installed.


RE: Worth ANY upcharge?
By Odysseus145 on 9/27/2012 11:46:37 AM , Rating: 2
If these are polymer-based, they have the potential of being significantly cheaper than silicon solar cells.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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