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ClearVue glazing yields power, lowers building energy

ClearVue’s greenhouse PV glazing at Murdoch University. Credit: File

A two-year trial of ClearVue Technologies’ insulated photovoltaic (PV) glass panelling on a vertical building façade and inclined rooftop at Murdoch University in Western Australia has confirmed a high consistency of power generation, sometimes outperforming conventional solar panels.

The company says the trial also showed a reduction in building energy use of up to 40 per cent in Murdoch’s greenhouse when compared to a conventionally-glazed equivalent. It was accompanied by average daily harvested energy of about 19 kWh.

ClearVue says the energy harvesting was notable for its stability through varying conditions, coupled with an occasional capacity to outperform regular PV solar panel arrays. It attributed that to the technology in its insulated glass unit (IGU) panels.

Some of the PV-IGUs also showed seasonal strong performance in terms of power generation and energy production outputs, including in adverse weather conditions, depending on the orientation.

The company installed its first-generation PV-IGUs at Murdoch’s research and development facility in April, 2021.

Solar glazing solutions have been talked about for years, yet until now, commercially available clear vision solar glass designed for commercial building façades hasn’t been put to the test in a real-world environment for extended study. The only long-term installation of its kind has shown that solar energy harvesting with ClearVue solar glazing solutions is not only feasible on vertical surfaces, but effective throughout all seasons. Each installation is unique, so results will vary depending on how demanding energy use is for any given building, and where and how the solar glazing is installed on a building. ClearVue Technologies chief business development officer Clifton Smyth

The study evaluated the long-term energy generation performance of the PV-IGUs by monitoring data from the individual and combined arrays in Murdoch’s research greenhouse. It was constructed using a total of 153 PV-IGUs, each measuring 1.2m-by-1.1m.

The layout includes 90 solar windows on a 20-degree-tilted north-facing roof of the greenhouse, 42 on the north wall and 21 on a west-facing wall.

After more than two years of continuous data-logging and recording the installation’s solar energy harvesting data, the information and conclusions have now been reported in the MDPI Technologies journal in a paper titled, “Field Performance Monitoring of Energy-Generating High-Transparency Agrivoltaic Glass Windows”.

In a rather telling prelude to its discussion, the authors of the paper point out that in the United States alone, vast amounts of energy are consumed in buildings and soaked up more than 40 per cent of the total nationwide energy consumption in 2018.

Moreover, the authors estimated that in 2021, the building energy sector accounted for about 30 per cent of total global energy consumption and that the sector’s 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions accounted for 15 per cent of total emissions from all end-use building sectors. It also noted that the figures effectively doubled when emissions from building-related lighting and heating were included.

Results from the Murdoch test during 2021’s autumn-winter period indicate that the greenhouse demonstrated a relatively stable energy production output, despite having a large area of vertically-oriented windows on its north and west walls. On some rainier days, it was even shown to outperform the 6.6kW peak power output of a standard PV solar system installation mounted on an optimally-tilted roof area.

Both the north and west walls performed stably in terms of energy harvesting, particularly on some areas in the summer months of 2021-22. The long-term performance of the roof-mounted 12-window array throughout all seasons, including minimum rainy-day daily energy outputs, were typically never below about 30 per cent of peak-day production for each corresponding week of the year.

The study concluded that the energy-harvesting behaviour of ClearVue’s IGUs is different from conventional PV solar panels. It suggested that while further assessment will be necessary to help optimise solar window designs for maximum energy yields, the company’s product already demonstrates a significant reduction in energy-use and running costs.

ClearVue’s mission is to develop advanced glass technology aimed at preserving transparency to maintain building aesthetics, while generating electricity and it is now also on the way to developing opaque power-generating spandrel solutions.

The company says its technology offers a significant shift in the way glass will be used in building and construction, as well as in cars, agriculture and specialty products. It believes it will increasingly no longer be just a vital construction component, but also a reliable renewable energy resource.

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