Britain's estimated 1 billion windows could become the power generators of the future, letting light through while harnessing solar energy. A Cambridge firm, Polysolar, which is manufacturing transparent solar panels, predicts that they could eventually replace conventional carbon emitting energy sources, such as coal and gas. For more information see the IDTechEx report on off grid zero-emission electricity.
Now British investors have an opportunity to buy a stake in the revolutionary technology. Polysolar is launching a fundraising programme on CrowdCube after extensive trials. The firm's solar PV glass is the first truly transparent alternative to solar panels, generating renewable energy without spoiling building aesthetics.
A typical 1200mm x 600m Polysolar glass panel can generate on average 5kWh of power each month (equivalent to half a day's power consumption for the average home). London's Shard, which has enough glass to surface eight football fields, would, if fitted with Polysolar glass, generate some 2,500MWh/year, enough (when combined with a reduction in air-conditioning loads) to create a zero-carbon building or power the annual energy needs of 1,000 houses.
Currently, a typical panel will cost about twice the price of a conventional glass window, but when volume production begins, the price could fall to a 10% premium on the cost of conventional glass.
Installations to date include the UK's first solar powered glass bus shelter at Canary Wharf, petrol station canopies for Sainsbury's, building facades and roofing for Network Rail as well as energy-generating domestic carports, conservatories, and greenhouses. One domestic trial featured a transparent glass roof to a garage and workshop that met the complete power needs of the owner's electric car and home.
The market opportunity, according to independent analysis, could be $26bn for building integrated photovoltaics by 2022, still just a small fraction of the overall building glass market.
Hamish Watson, CEO of Polysolar, said: "We're delighted to be launching our crowd funding programme today to accelerate the growth of our company. We've invested over £1.5m to get where we are today and we now have a commercial product, a huge potential market and an opportunity to make a contribution to saving our planet. It has taken time, effort, investment and science to make windows that generate power. There's a clear market opportunity in every sense."
Inspired by the transparent technology in the Hollywood sci-fi film Minority Report, Hamish founded Polysolar before solar power became mainstream. His aim was to solve developer needs to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions of buildings without harming the function and form of the building. The company was founded in 2007. The financial crisis of 2008 meant that Polysolar pursued its development programme without external investment. It slowed the development process, but it also bought the company time to develop a commercial product and understand the manufacturing and market requirements. Research and development has been carried out exclusively in the UK.
Polysolar is supported by a Technology Strategy Board and leading materials and glass manufacturing partners. The firm's technology has already been praised for its environmental and aesthetic benefits. The company has already won numerous awards and received recognition from the energy and construction community and its products are fully certified and warranted.
The company is now poised to accelerate sales and manufacturing. Secondary fabrication is undertaken at Dagenham and Stirling in the UK to deliver cost effective solutions to the construction industry and consumers alike. The company already exports around the world and is investing in turnkey architectural solutions for its clients.
Hamish Watson added: "Ongoing concerns about global emissions targets make this a vital time for cleaner energy generation. Britain may not be renowned for predictable sunshine, but we know a thing or two about invention."
Polysolar develops, designs, and delivers Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) solutions. We are a world leading UK developer and producer of innovative, low-cost, solar photovoltaic glass for the architectural market.
Our innovative solar glass technologies are the first transparent alternative to conventional architectural glazing, generating renewable energy and a return on investment whilst maintaining attractive architectural aesthetics.
Polysolar was established in 2007 by CEO Hamish Watson for the development of next generation photovoltaic materials. Technology Strategy Board grants with the support of multinational development partners gave rise to the world's largest single cell organic polymer photovoltaic module (OPV). As the R&D has progressed, Polysolar developed, launched, and certified a series of transparent, glass solar panel based on a range of thin-film Photovoltaic technologies. More recently the company has incorporated its high performance transparent glazing panels in a range of BIPV structures that address different architectural requirements, such as curtain wall facades, canopies and skylights, as well as greenhouses and automotive sunroofs.