Solar company HelioVolt and Architectural Glass & Aluminum on Tuesday announced a partnership to produce glass windows capable of generating electricity.
HelioVolt is one of several new solar manufacturers using different materials to produce thin-film solar cells.
The company intends to make solar cells for rooftop panels and later get into building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), where cells are embedded onto roof shingles, blinds, awnings, or other building components.
The deal with Architectural Glass & Aluminum calls for the companies to design solar-enabled curtain walls, the glass facades on the outside of buildings, or architectural glass in the interior of buildings.
Citing a Department of Energy study, HelioVolt said that solar cells integrated into buildings can produce about half of a building's energy usage.
Another company doing solar-enabled roofing is DRI Energy, a division of a construction company that has developed roof shingles and solar cells that glue onto flat roofs of commercial buildings.
In its coverage, Greentech Media pointed out that BIPV has a number of technical challenges, making the days of power-generating windows a few years away.
Specifically, solar cells typically have a shorter warranty--at 20 or 25 years--than many building materials. Thin-film cells made from CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide), as HelioVolt is making, corrode more in water than traditional silicon cells.