New Energy debuted a prototype of its “SolarWindow” technology in 2010. It has been gradually moving toward commercialization ever since, and today announced improvements that it says will bring it closer to manufacturing large window panes. That makes future skyscrapers with exteriors that create renewable energy possible – a big advancement for places such as New York City where solar panels may be impractical.
SolarWindow is a process for applying plastic solar films to glass at room temperature and at low pressure. Windows retrofitted with the film can generate energy from the sun’s visible light as well as artificial illumination such as office lighting. They remain see-through, so that the glass’s aesthetic qualities aren’t lost.
The latest improvements to the process double power conversion efficiency, reduce fabrication time from days to hours, improve window transparency, and apply a more uniform coating onto glass. This also raises some questions about the process; it was modified for an important reason. Startups aren’t awash with funding.
New Energy said that it was focusing on commercialization in 2011. It clearly hasn’t gone to market with SolarWindow yet. CEO John Conklin said in a statement today that the company is continuously working to improve product quality and performance. He reiterated that strides were being made toward manufacturing big glass panes at scale. That’s not exactly a go-to-market statement.
I’ve worked with a number of startups both as a journalist and in technology marketing roles. Delays aren’t uncommon — especially for those introducing potentially disruptive new technology. That’s why they hire PR firms — to keep positive buzz going that keeps investors happy while cash is being spent.
There’s reason to be optimistic because New Energy has demonstrated its ability to innovate. Last March, it announced an “invisible” wiring system to transport electricity over glass windows. United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientists collaborated on that project.
There’s promise in this company, but when will SolarWindow ship?
Related on SmartPlanet: