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.


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.


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 

Double the yield: Scientists propose combined solar and biofuel farms

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest and now solar panels, using gravity, will be able to create two different types of energies at once.

This could potentially be used in countries where land is uninhabitable and arid to create cleaner power and use less water at the same time.

Researchers from Stanford University, in the US, have developed the new model for solar farms that can not only collect energy from the sun but also but also grow crops to collect energy for biofuels.

On the farms, which put the crops in the same location as the panels, the water used to clean the solar panels would also be used to help the plants grow.


The farms run on sunlight, but water is needed to remove dust and dirt from the solar panels to allow them to function as efficiently as possible. The water is also used to dampen the ground to stop the build-up of dust.

In turn, the crops would return the favour by stopping the spread of dust – the roots of the plants will also help anchor the soil.

The model by Stanford University scientists was led by Sujith Ravi who said it could be employed in areas where it is impossible to grow crops.

“Co-located solar-biofuel systems could be a novel strategy for generating two forms of energy from uncultivable lands: electricity from solar infrastructure and easily transportable liquid fuel from biofuel cultivation.”


However not many types of crop would be able to grow due to the high temperatures and barren lands where most of the solar farms are based.

Agave plants, which are native to North and South America and can be used to produce liquid ethanol, would be able to thrive in the high temperatures and poor soil, the scientists say.

Their new set-up is now to be tested around the world to see how much energy can be produced from the combined solar panel and crop combination.

Ravi added: “It could be a win-win situation. Water is already limited in many areas and could be a major constraint in the future. This approach could allow us to produce energy and agriculture with the same water.”

Agave and solar panel image courtesy of Stanford University