First came stand-alone solar panels, which could be mounted on rooftops or on stands at ground level.
Then there are building-integrated solar panels, which are structural panels that can form the outer skin of a building so there's no additional step in mounting discrete panels. Akin to these are solar shingles, which can be used on conventional sloped roofs as a normal waterproofing layer, with solar technology integrated into them.
Then there are flexible solar collectors which could be affixed to pratically any surface.
Now this story (from the Guardian) shows that windows could become solar collectors as well.
Soon you could build a house, the entire outer skin of which could be generating electricity. How cool (or hot) is that?
Windows could be used as powerful solar panels thanks to a clever new technology that concentrates the sun's rays. The technique uses transparent dyes to capture, concentrate and redirect light along the surface of the glass to photovoltaic (PV) cells in the frame, which convert the light into electricity. The breakthrough means that there is a tenfold increase in power output compared to use of the PV cell alone.
The team, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claims the technology could slash the cost of generating electricity from sunlight, making it more competitive with standard grid power. This is because the expensive PV cells only need to be installed at the sides of the panels, rather than across the whole surface.
Sunlight is concentrated in existing solar power devices using large, mobile mirrors that track the sun as it moves across the sky. But these can be expensive to deploy and maintain. In the MIT device, called an "organic solar concentrator" and described in the latest issue of Science, the researchers painted a mixture of organic dyes onto the surface of a pane of glass. The dyes trap different wavelengths of sunlight and then guide the energy along the glass towards the PV cells at the edges.
"The point of all this is to get away with using far fewer solar cells," said Marc Baldo, an electrical engineer at MIT. "The concentrator collects light over its whole front surface, but the solar cells need only cover the area of the edges."