Solar windows: Power offices and homes with energy collecting curtains

The sun could be used to power our homes and offices simply by switching our curtains and blinds to versions with solar panels built into them. That’s the dream of one organisation that is set to change how skyscrapers and buildings of the future will collect renewable energy.

Nanergy Solar, which consists of academic researchers and entrepreneurs, wants to use solar curtains and sunshades to collect energy to power the home.

It says that this technology will enable those living in large urban communities to benefit from solar energy in a similar way to those living in rural areas – despite them not having access to land to place panels.

“The amount of sunshine going through windows is large. In the US for example, if we count both residential and commercial east, south and west facing windows, this comes out to more than 20 meter square per resident,” it says.

“If all this sunlight is converted with 15% efficiency, we could generate 1000GW of electricity.”

Nanergy Solar says that both the sunshade and curtains are lighter than outdoor solar products and that they can be installed in around an hour.

The products also do not have any PV materials that include toxic substances.

solarbinds2

For example, in high-rise blocks of flats or office buildings with huge numbers of windows, collecting energy could help to power the building and the appliances inside.

The group is running a funding campaign on the website Indiegogo and hopes to raise $150,000.

It says it would be possible to power most of a home’s appliances using the technology as long as there is enough window space.

“Exploiting the light coming through widows, patio doors, any sources of outside light, Sunshades and Suncurtains in Solar Windows convert it to SPV (Solar PV) electricity inside your home,” it says.

“In the pictured apartment it is possible to generate over 2kW of electricity. It would be enough to operate most of your electrical appliances.”

The crowd funding will allow them to complete the design of the Sunshade and Suncurtain products as well as paying for tooling needed to begin mass production and to carry out the necessary certifications and approvals that are needed.

sunblinds

The idea behind the product seems like a simple one, but it could help to harness energy in cities that use a lot of power.

In theory the blinds or curtains could be left closed while the owner leaves the flat or apartment and goes to work.

When they return home the windows could have collected enough power for them to use while in the property.

The power would be collected in batteries because in the US it is against regulations to feed it back into the energy grid.

Like traditional curtains and sunshades, the solar versions can be pulled out of the way to let light come through the windows.

It is planned that solar curtains will be rolled out in October 2014, if the group is successful with its funding campaign.


Images courtesy of Nanergy Solar 


Future of City Travel: Flying Car Set for Launch

Despite the timing, this is not an April Fool’s joke:  if all goes to plan, flying cars could soon be a familiar sight in cities across the world.

Silicon Valley-based Mix Aerospace has developed a plan for a vehicle that functions both as a car and a personal flying machine, which it has named Skylys. The company is seeking funding through Indiegogo to make the project a reality.

While the idea may seem technologically remote, the company already has a complete design as well as a number of patents and backing from key figures in the aerospace industry.

If enough funding is attracted, a prototype should be ready by 2017.

skylys-1

Skylys will fly in a similar way to a helicopter, using a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system integrated into a set of wings, meaning that it could be flown by anyone with a helicopter licence. Once it lands, the wings will detach, turning it into a road-legal car that can be driven as normal.

Although flying cars are traditionally a staple of retrofuturistic city concepts, the company believes that there is huge potential for the technology in the real world.

Writing on its Indiegogo project page, the company said: “A lot of people want to believe in flying cars but find it hard to grasp the reality of the situation, pushing the idea back to science fiction and out of reach. We strongly believe that the time is right, there are uses for such a vehicle.”

skylys-2

Initially Mix sees Skylys being used by police, fire and ambulance services, and believes it could play a major role in disaster situations such as Hurricane Katrina, where it could have airlifted people from flooded areas of New Orleans.

It also sees it as a potential vehicle for private individuals: it could replace private chauffer services in cities where traffic congestion is a problem, and could land on buildings in skyscraper-rich cities such as Dubai.

Long-term we’d like to think it will be accessible to normal people, but for now it is likely to be restricted to the super wealthy. Funders can pre-order a vehicle now, although with the incredibly hefty price tag of €1m we don’t expect many takers.

The Indiegogo campaign, which started yesterday, has a target of €2.25m but is using flexible funding, meaning that the company will keep any money raised even if it does not hit the final goal.

The project seems in part to be to raise enough money to recruit engineering staff and boost awareness so that the company can attract venture capital financing and build an international marketing platform to sell to the wealthy elite.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect a change on the Indiegogo website which originally stated the cost to receive a prototype was €1bn – since publication this has been changed to €1m. 


Images courtesy of Mix Aerospace.