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photovoltaic glass (PV glass)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Photovoltaic glass (PV glass) is a technology that enables the conversion of light into electricity. 

To do so, the glass incorporates transparent semiconductor-based photovoltaic cells, which are also known as solar cells. The cells are sandwiched between two sheets of glass. Photovoltaic glass is not perfectly transparent but allows some of the available light through.

Buildings using a substantial amount of photovoltaic glass could produce some of their own electricity through the windows. The PV power generated is considered green or clean electricity because its source is renewable and it does not cause pollution. In addition to energy cost savings, potential benefits from the use of photovoltaic glass include reducing the carbon footprint of facilities, contributing to sustainability and consequently, enhancing branding and public relations (PR) efforts.  

In environments where too much heat gets in with light, the reduced transparency can also save on air-conditioning costs. Variations have been designed for environments where more light is desired. For example, Sharp has developed a slitted solar glass product that has gaps between solar cells to enable greater light penetration.

Another company, Onyx Solar, makes photovoltaic glass with a variety of options including different colors, gradient and patterns as well as double or triple-glazed products. Variance in photovoltaic efficiency and light penetration among these products enables multiple options for architectural design.

See a video introduction to photovoltaic glass:

This was last updated in November 2013

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