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Solar power windows: Connecting scientific advances to market signals

Needell, David R. and Phelan, Megan E. and Hartlove, Jason T. and Atwater, Harry A. (2021) Solar power windows: Connecting scientific advances to market signals. Energy, 219 . Art. No. 119567. ISSN 0360-5442. doi:10.1016/

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Recent materials advances have enabled researchers to envision and develop highly efficient, partially transparent photovoltaic (PV) prototypes, exposing a potentially large and untapped market for solar energy: building integrated (BI) solar powered windows. In this perspective, we assess the case for market deployment of BIPV windows, specifically intended for commercial U.S. high-rise buildings. Research and development on solar powered windows has been predicated on the hypothesis that sunlight-to-electrical power conversion efficiency (PCE) and device cost per unit area are the key figures of merit that might drive market adoption. Here we investigate the market landscape and desirability for solar powered windows by identifying and evaluating the customer needs for the commercial high-rise building window market. In the course of this assessment, we performed 150 interviews with experts across the value chain for commercial windows. We found that the market forces are complicated by a misalignment of incentives between the end users of BIPV windows and the key decision makers for building projects that could incorporate this technology. Our assessment leads us to frame new figures of merit for BIPV windows that address the underlying needs of prospective customers as well as technical metrics for energy generation. We finally discuss one possible direction for BIPV window technology in which photovoltaics are integrated with switchable windows. Here, the integrated PV converts visible and infrared light transmission into useable electricity enabling standalone, self-powered active windows that can potentially address market needs for smart windows, thereby enabling a pathway for BIPV window deployment.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Needell, David R.0000-0001-8343-5883
Phelan, Megan E.0000-0002-4968-7128
Atwater, Harry A.0000-0001-9435-0201
Additional Information:© 2020 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Received 24 October 2020, Revised 1 December 2020, Accepted 8 December 2020, Available online 10 December 2020. The market research and interviews conducted were carried out with support from the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Grant funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Award Number 1939894. Author contributions: David R. Needell, Conceptualization, Methodology, Data collection, Writing – original draft preparation. Megan E. Phelan, Conceptualization, Methodology, Data collection, Writing – original draft preparation. Jason T. Hartlove, Data collection, Writing- Reviewing and Editing. Harry A. Atwater, Data collection, Writing- Reviewing and Editing. The authors declare that they have no competing interests with respect to this manuscript.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:Power window; Building integrated photovoltaics
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201216-110739610
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Official Citation:David R. Needell, Megan E. Phelan, Jason T. Hartlove, Harry A. Atwater, Solar power windows: Connecting scientific advances to market signals, Energy, Volume 219, 2021, 119567, ISSN 0360-5442, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:107120
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:16 Dec 2020 19:17
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:59

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