Glass Blocks Could Soon See Buildings Generating Their Own Power

Buildings could soon be able to convert the sun’s energy into electricity without relying solely upon solar panels, thanks to innovative new technology. University of Exeter, England, researchers have been developing a pioneering new technology that could accelerate the widespread introduction of net-zero energy buildings through the latest innovation in Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). Their innovative glass block, which can be incorporated into the fabric of a building, is designed to collect solar energy and convert it to electricity.

It is thought that buildings consume more than forty percent of the electricity produced across the globe. This new technology would allow electricity to be produced at the site of use, while being seamlessly integrated into the building. The blocks, called Solar Squared, are designed to fit seamlessly into either new buildings, or as part of renovations in existing properties. Similar to the solar tile created by Tesla, these can become a part of a building’s architecture to generate electricity. They are similar to existing glass blocks by allowing daylight into the buildings interior in lieu of solid wall materials, instead replaced them with transparent glass units.

Crucially, the blocks have intelligent optics that focus the incoming solar radiation onto small solar cells, enhancing the overall energy generated by each solar cell. The electricity generated will then be available to power the building, be stored or used to charge electric vehicles.

The University of Exeter team’s aim is to build integrated, affordable, efficient and attractive solar technologies which have the smallest impact on the local landscape. Indicaations are that these blocks have better thermal insulation than traditional glass blocks, as well as providing power to the building.

The patent pending technology comes at a favorable time given that the world is moving to a distributed energy system, of which a growing proportion is renewable. This, coupled with the shift to electric vehicles means that there are substantial opportunities for new ways of generating electricity at the point-of-use.

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