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Electric windows

London’s Shard could power 1k houses using a Cambridge invention that turns ordinary windows into solar panels
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Polysolar bus shelter at Canary Wharf

As Britain swelters in what some predict will be the driest and warmest summer since 1976, Cambridge firm Polysolar is manufacturing windows that use the sunshine to generate electricity.

The windows capture solar energy in the same way as solar panels, but they are transparent. The technology could put an end to solar panels on roofs and could eventually replace fossil fuels entirely.

When the windows, which are assembled in Dagenham, are mass produced, the cost will only be 10% higher than conventional glass windows – potentially saving business and domestic users a fortune in energy costs.

Polysolar has developed windows and ‘solar door canopies’ that power security lights, carports, bus shelters and greenhouses. The firm is also looking at opportunities in the car market.

UK’s first solar bus shelter

A typical Polysolar window can produce enough power per month to meet half a day’s domestic needs. London’s Shard, which has enough glass to surface eight football fields, would generate power to meet the annual energy needs of 1,000 houses.

Polysolar windows have been exported worldwide. Installations to date include the UK’s first solar powered glass bus shelter at Canary Wharf (main image), petrol station canopies for Sainsbury’s, building facades and roofing for Network Rail, as well as energy-generating domestic carports, conservatories, and greenhouses.

One domestic trial featured a transparent glass roof to a garage and workshop that met the complete power needs of the owner’s electric car and home.

The market opportunity, according to independent analysis, could be $26bn by 2022.

A clear business opportunity

Hamish Watson, founder of Polysolar, said, ‘It may seem an irony, but Britain, famous for its fifty shades of grey clouds, may become a world leader in the solar energy business.’

‘The reaction to our invention has been extraordinary. We’ve been raising funds to speed up growth on CrowdCube and we have smashed our target. We’ve invested over £1.5m to get where we are today and we now have a commercial product on sale, a huge potential market and an opportunity to make a contribution to saving our planet. It has taken time, effort, investment and science to make windows that generate power. There’s a clear market opportunity in every sense.’

Founder of Polysolar

Inspired by the transparent technology in the Hollywood sci-fi film Minority Report, Hamish founded Polysolar in 2007 before solar power became mainstream.

His aim was to solve developer needs to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions of buildings without harming the function and form of the building.

The financial crisis of 2008 meant that Polysolar pursued its development programme without external investment. It slowed the development process, but it also bought the company time to develop a commercial product and understand the manufacturing and market requirements. Research and development has been carried out exclusively in the UK.

The firm’s technology has already been praised for its environmental and aesthetic benefits. The company has already won numerous awards and received recognition from the energy and construction community and its products are fully certified and warranted.

The company is now poised to accelerate sales and manufacturing. Secondary fabrication is undertaken at Dagenham and Stirling in the UK to deliver cost-effective solutions to the construction industry and consumers alike.

Hamish Watson added, ‘Ongoing concerns about global emissions targets make this a vital time for cleaner energy generation. Britain may not be renowned for predictable sunshine most years, but we know a thing or two about invention.’

Click here to find out what it’s like to live in a battery-powered home.

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