Wired News writes about an interesting energy idea being worked on by Anna Dyson, who teaches architecture at Rensselaer:
Imagine sitting at your office desk, looking through floor-to-ceiling windows. You look past dozens of tiny, translucent, 1-centimeter silicon squares suspended about every square foot or so between dual windowpanes. The little squares shift like automated, almost invisible Venetian blinds. The miniature squares follow the sun’s rays, so they don’t impede the view in any direction.
The entire module — a clear plastic pane between two glass panes — functions like a translucent sundial, letting you tell time with its shadows.
The glare that once bounced off your computer monitor no longer exists. And the sun’s intense heat, which once led to window-shade tug-of-wars with co-workers longing for a little natural light, no longer beats down on you. You comfortably tap at your keyboard under natural, abundant, ambient light.
But there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. These photovoltaic window shades quietly capture the sun’s rays of heat and light, focusing them into the small silicon squares, also called solar chips. The chips convert the light energy into electrical power and feed it into the building’s electrical system; the energy goes into the heating and cooling systems.
Dyson said a single solar cell will cost about 25 cents. The cells are situated about a square foot apart and will have a “way more than 50 percent” energy-conversion rate, she added. Typical solar panels have a conversion rate of less than 20 percent.