Transparent Solar Technology Represents Wave of The Future | Solar Windows

Energy Harvesting Windows, Solar Panel Windows, Solar Glass Windows, Professor Richard Lunt, Green Technology Professors, Solar Systems Future, Energy Creating Windows

See-through solar materials that can be applied to windows represent a massive source of untapped energy and could harvest as much power as bigger, bulkier rooftop solar units, scientists report today in Nature Energy.

Led by engineering researchers at Michigan State University, the authors argue that widespread use of such highly transparent solar applications, together with the rooftop units, could nearly meet U.S. electricity demand and drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” said Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”

Energy Harvesting Windows, Solar Panel Windows, Solar Glass Windows, Professor Richard Lunt, Green Technology Professors, Solar Systems Future, Energy Creating WindowsLunt and colleagues at MSU 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.

The solar-harvesting system uses organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight. The researchers can “tune” these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths that then convert this energy into electricity (watch a demonstration of the process here).

Moving global energy consumption away from fossil fuels will require such innovative and cost-effective renewable energy technologies. Only about 1.5 percent of electricity demand in the United States and globally is produced by solar power.

But in terms of overall electricity potential, the authors note that there is an estimated 5 billion to 7 billion square meters of glass surface in the United States. And with that much glass to cover, transparent solar technologies have the potential of supplying some 40 percent of energy demand in the U.S. – about the same potential as rooftop solar units. “The complimentary deployment of both technologies,” Lunt said, “could get us close to 100 percent of our demand if we also improve energy storage.”

Lunt said highly transparent solar applications are recording efficiencies above 5 percent, while traditional solar panels typically are about 15 percent to 18 percent efficient. Although transparent solar technologies will never be more efficient at converting solar energy to electricity than their opaque counterparts, they can get close and offer the potential to be applied to a lot more additional surface area, he said.

Right now, transparent solar technologies are only at about a third of their realistic overall potential, Lunt added.

“That is what we are working towards,” he said. “Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years. Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.”

The work is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.

Lunt’s coauthors are Christopher Traverse, a doctoral student in engineering at MSU, and Richa Pandey and Miles Barr with Ubiquitous Energy Inc., a company Lunt cofounded with Barr to commercialize transparent solar technologies.

More about Richard Lunt and MSU

Can You Have an Air-Conditioning System Off Grid?

Having pioneered many of the green technology features found in today's new homes with my luxury home building company, Bryan Smith Homes, founded in 1977, I tried a lot of new products and energy saving approaches long before building green became a real focal point. Because of all the large homes we built, and the subdivisions my company developed were tied to the grid, I never built an off-grid home before, or one with a solar system included. When I launched Texas Tiny Homes in December of 2012, I began to realize many of our plan customers around the world were planning to build off grid, so decided to educate solar and wind generated power.

One of the first questions I had was; can an off-grid solar system handle an air-conditioning system? That is also one of the first things people in Texas and most southern states want to know as they consider an off grid lifestyle in a tiny house, or small home. This video, by DIY Homesteading provides some helpful information and his personal testimony on their own tiny RV home they just constructed in Arizona. Heating a tiny, or a small off-grid home doesn't require solar, so that's not the problem. You can go with a wood burning iron stove or some of the popular tiny home propane heaters work well. You can also go with a heat pump system as discussed below. 

The good news is; it IS possible to have air-condition system with a reasonable size and priced solar system, but you have to plan wisely when designing and building the home; including minimizing your exposure to the west sun. How you situate your home on the property is an important part of the equation. If your home is going to be one on a trailer, or it's one of our tiny or small homes that are too wide for trailers, they are usually rectangular in shape.  And because of that you will want to place the trailer, or build the home with the narrow ends facing east and west, therefore minimizing your exposure to the sun. It would be best if there were no windows on the end that catches the west sunset, but if you do have windows, you would want to go with super efficient units with triple pane glass that are argon filled. Making that exterior wall, 2" X 6" or 2" X 8" thick would also be an excellent idea. You will want to foam insulate that wall too, as well as all the exterior walls in the home as well as any ceilings that are also the roof rafters.

We plan to add 4' X 8' X 1" foam board sheathing on the exterior wall first before adding radiant barrier sheathing and then siding. Adding radiant barrier decking on the exterior walls before the siding goes on will reflect 97% of the radiant heat entering the home. The additional "R" value those items add to the exterior walls will help make the home even much easier to heat and cool, as well as maintain the temperature inside the home. Once the home is acclimatized to your desired temperature, it's much easier, and more economical to maintain that temperature with a super insulation design and installation as outlined above.

Image result for radiant barrier roof deckingAnother important step you will need to take in an effort to reduce the heat from the sunlight during the hot months is to use a radiant barrier roof decking before the the roof material is applied. That type of decking can reduce attic temperatures dramatically by reducing the radiant waves by 97%, and a cooler attic or roof keeps the inside of your home cooler. Using reflective, light colored roofing material is also an important part of the off-grid home when cooling it down. You would want to avoid a dark colored roof.

Image result for galvanized roofUsing this type of roof will reflect the sunlight rather than draw it into the home as popular, darker colored composition roofs will do, unless they have been manufactured with energy saving elements in the materials used. The good thing about a metal roof, manufactures apply paint to the metal that reflect infrared wavelengths, and you can actually receive a tax credit when installing energy saving roof materials.

Another requirement with having an air-conditioner in your off-grid home is installing a low-voltage, high-seer mini split-system, which is much more economical to operate and uses a lot less valuable wattage from the battery bank. Because of how the tiny or small home is designed and built that include all these energy saving features mentioned, it will be much easier on the solar system to keep the home cool and also warm if you use the heat pump in the mini-split system. Having large shade trees on the end of the home that faces west is also another great idea, as long as it doesn't interfere with the solar panels sun exposure.

200+ Fruit Tree & Urban Garden In Tempe, Arizona

As you plan your future that may include; off grid living in a tiny or small home, or living off the land, or homesteading, as many in the tiny and small house movement are doing, this video by, DIY Homestead Project provides some great food for thought.  They visited, Jake, a vegan marshal arts athlete in Tempe, Arizona, to get a tour of his home's amazing garden he created to get some ideas and input for their homestead not far from Tempe. 

Arizona Tiny Homes, Arizona Homesteading, Arizona Tiny House Plans, Arizona Fruit Garden, Arizona Water Harvesting, Arizona Small HomesDIY Homestead Project is a young couple,  Derick and Hannah, who have purchased land and built a 24' feet long tiny house from scratch in the Arizona desert.  They are also digital entrepreneur nomads and promote a minimalist, debt free, lifestyle. They have some really great "How To" video's about their journey and we will be sharing some of those video's for those of you planning on building your own tiny or small home paradise.  


Rainwater Harvesting Tour

Joe, of Homesteadonomics, who is located out in Arizona has done a really nice job of designing, installing and living off a rainwater harvesting system for he and his family.  This video gives a detailed tour of his system. The following video is a Q and A on his system.

Granbury, Texas where Texas Tiny Homes is planning to build some small luxury homes averages around 35" inches of rainfall each year. Adding a rain-harvest system to supply the water needs for our homes is something I believe is possible, but have not sat down with the county health department to confirm that. I like the concept and will be exploring the possibilities, designing a workable system and its pricing.

The Areas of Compromise for $99K Site-Built Homes

New Homes Granbury, Luxury Homes Granbury, Small Homes Granbury, Tiny Homes Granbury, Lowest Price New Homes In America Texas Tiny Homes has a goal of offering you some of the most affordable, but also luxurious small homes in America, which is no easy task in today’s booming economy.  Because of the high cost of construction, and cost of the land the average price of a new home in America is now, $368,000. New home construction has been booming for the past 6 years, especially in Texas, and because of that there is a shortage of skilled trades, construction workers and construction materials, and affordable lots.

In an effort to accomplish our “$99K Starting Price” goal in Granbury, Texas some compromise is going to be necessary, but the last place the compromise will show up is in the quality of construction, the attention to details, and the luxury features found in all of our home plans. One of the areas of compromise require smaller, less expensive lots, which we are now purchasing in older, but deed-restricted, HOA communities, located outside of the city limits. These communities do not have city property taxes,which is good, but they do not have city water and sewer.

New Homes Granbury, Luxury Homes Granbury, Small Homes Granbury, Tiny Homes Granbury, Lowest Price New Homes In America These communities have brand-new, site-built homes, as well as older, site-built homes, along with brand-new, as well as older manufactured homes. Some of the older, manufactured homes are being replaced with brand new homes, so these communities are similar in trend to some very popular tear-down neighborhoods in East Dallas, Preston Hollow, Park Cities, or Oak Cliff, Texas. In some of the booming, tear-down neighborhoods in Dallas, there are million dollar homes being built right door next door to 60-year-old, $150K thousand dollar homes. Having said that, the lots we are purchasing are hand-picked and are the best of the available lots in each community. Our goal will provide new life to these older communities, as well as growth.

New Homes Granbury, Luxury Homes Granbury, Small Homes Granbury, Tiny Homes Granbury, Lowest Price New Homes In America

Another part of the compromise to obtain our “$99K starting price” goal is based on the size and cost of the lot, as well as how to handle the black and grey water waste (sewage). The larger the lot the more expensive they are to purchase, which is the case with most land acquisitions. Smaller lots are less expensive, but one of common draw backs to the smaller lots, especially in Texas, which came about after these communities were developed is; a typical new home requires having to purchase several smaller lots to accommodate a large, and expensive, aerobic septic system. We believe our approach will work well, as do the experts we have consulted with; including the health department of Hood, County.

Texas Tiny Homes, starting price, site-built, luxury homes in Granbury are only slightly over 600 air-conditioned square feet, and only have one bathroom, or one and half bathrooms, a kitchen and washer and drier, and were designed for one or two persons to live in comfortably, and economically. These small luxury homes do not require a typical, costly, septic system, nor do they need two lots, which make the homes much more affordable. We are not willing to publicly provide our plans for working around the typical two lots, and one large septic system requirement scenario, but will say that a composting toilet, and a grey water irrigation approach will be two of the options in achieving the $85K starting price. Composting toilets are very much a part of off-grid living around the world, and there are many models and brands to chose from that seem to be very popular with the tiny and small house movement.

The Sun Frost CS composter system incorporates a sleek interior toilet and two 55 gallon batch composters outside to finish the composting process. Food scraps increase biodiversity and actually makes the composting process more effective.

The Sun Frost CS composting system does not require a drain field or have large electrical requirements to evaporate liquids. The only electrical requirement is about 2 watts for a ventilation fan. The fan can be provided in DC for solar applications or AC for grid tied installations. Odor in the bathroom is controlled by two methods, covering the toilets contents with saw dust or peat moss and a fan powered ventilation system. Even without a ventilation system, covering the content of the toilet with sawdust has proven itself effective. For many years, a similar home built toilet system outlined in the “Humanure Handbook” effectively utilized this strategy. With the incorporated ventilation system the Sun Frost CS is even more odor free than a conventional toilet, since the odors produced while using it are expelled directly outside.

For a single user exclusively using the CS it will take about 1 week to fill the 5 gallon interior storage container. If only solid waste is added the toilet will take more than 2 months to fill the interior container.

With this batch composting system one exterior drum is filled while the composting process is completed in the second drum. The 55 gallon composter only requires the addition of a dry material, such as wood savings. Wood shavings are readily available in feed and pet stores. Effective composting requires aeration (mixing), proper moisture content and warmth. Mixing in the 55 gallon drum is easy with the stainless steel “cork screw” type mixer provided with the kit. The exterior drums are also insulated to keep the compost warm, which speeds the composting. During winter months under very cold conditions the contents of the drums may freeze. Human manure and food scraps can still be added to the drum, composting will continue during warmer weather. A scoop, provided with the kit, makes emptying the drums a simple matter. When emptied the contents of the drum smell and look like healthy topsoil.

If composting toilets are not something you would be interested in we have other options including standard type toilets that we can discuss, which will be a little more costly for you over the long run, but will not effect the starting price of our new homes. Click this contact link and send us an email stating your interest, and we will get back with you right away.