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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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Is 6.5% good or bad?
By BifurcatedBoat on 9/26/2012 3:19:44 PM , Rating: 2
I read another article recently that says 7% is the "world record" for solar panel efficiency. In that context 6.5% sounds pretty good. Anyone know if this is true?

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By aurareturn on 9/26/2012 3:26:34 PM , Rating: 2
I used to work at SunPower Corp. Their solar panels were at 23% efficiency the last time I checked and that was the record. Could be higher now.

Low end solar panels can be anywhere from 12% to 15%.

So no, 6.5% is really bad efficiency but this is a different technology.

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By aurareturn on 9/26/2012 3:29:16 PM , Rating: 2
Correction: SunPower's cells are at 24%. It's still the world record I believe.

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By fic2 on 9/26/2012 4:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
The world record is over 40% efficient. But that is in a lab. If you are talking about available to install, shipping panels then according to this SunPower's panels are in the top at 21%.

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By Keeir on 9/26/2012 10:46:26 PM , Rating: 2
I am pretty sure the "40%" is using concentrators. It kinda becomes difficult to measure the efficieny of this type of panel fairly versus others. Due to the parabolic nature of a concentrator, typically only small (compared to human size) panels are capable of getting these extreme measures, and then the whole apparatus tends be somewhat distored efficieny as typically its power produced/power sent into panel, not the better measurement in my mind of power produced/sunlight disturbed

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By FITCamaro on 9/27/2012 9:05:25 AM , Rating: 2
From what I've read, really expensive solar panels used in satellites also get like 40% efficiency.

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By JPForums on 9/27/2012 1:02:02 PM , Rating: 2
Spectrolab has concentrator cells available that push 40% efficiency.

In house, last I heard, they've hit 48%. Lab samples are less interesting as they have to work out consistency and usability issues. Nobody wants a cell that only produces between 89 and 91 degrees while under temperatures common to Antarctica.

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By esteinbr on 9/26/2012 3:59:07 PM , Rating: 2
7% as a record is probably for a specific type of solar cell like a thin film panel which is very different from a multi-junction cell. A multi-junction cell is much more expensive but provides triple or more the efficiency. Beyond that you can also talk about efficiency at the cell level or the panel level and that may or may not include mirrors/lenses/etc to focus more light on the same area.

Ultimately time will tell. If these are cheap enough and work well enough they can still find usage and provide some amount of power.

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By Odysseus145 on 9/27/2012 11:51:34 AM , Rating: 2
Here's a chart from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showing the latest record efficiencies from many different technologies.

RE: Is 6.5% good or bad?
By Odysseus145 on 9/27/2012 11:51:57 AM , Rating: 3
"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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