Physee solar window

The sides of a towering skyscraper are covered with windows that glint in the sun on a clear day. Imagine if all those windows could be used to collect energy.

It’s not just a fantasy. Several companies are creating windows that convert solar energy into electricity. Ferdinand Grapperhaus is Co-founder and CEO of a Dutch company called Physee.

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Grapperhaus: “We have integrated solar cells in the edges of the glass.”

The cells are tiny, so they do not change how a building looks. He says this is important, because people are often reluctant to alter a building’s design.

Grapperhaus: “We don’t want to compromise on those designs but we do want to add functionality to the glass.”

For now, each window produces just enough power for small tasks, such as charging a phone. But Grapperhaus says his company is developing new technology that aims to triple the energy produced.

The windows alone will still be unable to power a whole building. But Grapperhaus thinks that’s ok. He says energy consumption in big buildings is a huge problem and no single technology will solve it alone.

Grapperhaus: “I foresee it will always be a combination of different functionalities that make a building fully energy neutral.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...