An Israeli startup is trying to implement solar power in crowded urban places, by generating it from the windows of buildings and skyscrapers. According to Pythagoras Solar, buildings are the largest consumers of energy worldwide and are also the least energy-efficient.
Meir Ukeles, member of the company’s Board of Directors and one of its VC investors, tells NoCamels that it is hard to position large solar panels in crowded urban areas, mainly due to the lack of space. Even with enough space, most solar panels have limitations since they need to be oriented toward the sun and are sensitive to environmental factors such as dirt.
The company says its aim is to leverage solar power to create self-powered green buildings that will reduce energy consumption. To do so, they developed a Photovoltaic Glass Unit – a window that has solar cells encased between double panes of glass, which simultaneously saves and generates electricity.
The electricity produced is run through a DC/AC inverter and then channeled to the electrical system of the building and can then be used to power the area.
Energy efficiency, power generation, transparency
The Photovoltaic Glass Unit, which is based on patent-pending optical technology, can generate enough electricity to power whole buildings, the company tells NoCamels. “The windows have a higher transparency level than regular windows and therefore optimize natural daylight inside buildings and increases the energy efficiency gains through reduced air-conditioning and lighting costs.”
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The solar cells are adaptable and can be installed in almost any kind of window – and they can be integrated in conventional construction processes. “The technology exists and the need is there. It’s just a question of fine-tuning and getting it on the market,” Ukeles says.
The price of a solar-paneled window is currently about 30 percent higher than a regular window, but Pythagoras Solar says investment can be returned within five years.
“This technology is especially relevant for western and developing countries with a high urban density population, like Japan and China, where there are cities with 19 million inhabitants and it makes a lot of sense to save energy,” Ukeles adds.
Pilots in the U.S
In July 2011 the company won a grant of $100,000 from General Electric’s Ecomagination Challenge. Their first pilot in the U.S was launched in 2011 at Chicago’s Willis Tower and was followed by an additional project in Wisconsin’s Organic Valley.
The company has already received orders from companies in the United States, France and Japan. These projects are expected to be initiated next year.
Pythagoras Solar was conceived at Precede Technologies, an Israeli incubator, which teams up scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs. The company was founded in 2008 and has operations in the United States, Israel and China.