As fossil fuels gradually begin to run out over the next century, it is certain that household fuel bills will become increasingly expensive. As the world looks for alternative power sources, finding viable sources of renewable energy has become more important than ever.

Many homeowners are beginning to look at alternative ways of generating electricity themselves and one of the most popular methods currently is solar power. Opaque solar power panels have become a familiar sight on many homes across the country, but what if the technology existed where glazing itself could be used to generate solar power? A whole range of products across the home, such as windows, doors and conservatories could be adapted to generate their own electricity.

Interestingly, this possibility could soon become a reality. Recently, researchers at Michigan State University managed to create a fully transparent solar cell that has the potential to be fitted across a wide range of glazing in the home. We thought we’d examine the new technology itself and see what implications it could have for bi-fold doors.

Transparent solar panels: the technology

Traditional photovoltaic solar cells created energy by absorbing photons (sunlight) and converting them into electrons (electricity), but cells needed to be opaque to retain the photons. Before, it wasn’t possible to generate electricity from a transparent surface, like glass, but new technology means it may now be possible.

Scientists have used organic salts that absorb non-visible ultra violet and infrared light to create a panel that looks brilliantly transparent to the human eye.  Currently, the solar conversion efficiency rating of the panel is around 1% but scientists are confident that with more development they can improve it to 7%.

They are also confident that they can scale the panel down in terms of potential price for the home improvement market. This would make it commercially competitive with other solar panels currently available on the market. It would also make it the first solar power product to be completely transparent, and so potentially able to be installed in windows and doors: a development that could truly revolutionise how homes source energy.

Solar panel bi-fold doors: practicality with aesthetics?

The bi-fold door itself, with its large surface area of glass, makes it perfectly suited to trap and convert large amounts of sunlight into energy. Bi-folds fitted with transparent solar panel technology would be both extremely practical and attractive, with enough large glazed surfaces to produce a considerable amount of electricity.

The implications for the homeowners

Transparent solar panels could create a truly energy self-sufficient house, as they could be installed practically anywhere on the outside of a home without being obtrusive. Bulky and cumbersome opaque solar panels could become a thing of the past, with transparent solar panels installed subtly in windows and glazing.

Not only will this reduce energy bills in homes, but if enough energy is generated property owners could sell the excess electricity back to the grid and actually start to recoup the installation cost of their bi-fold doors. In the future, bi-folds could be a money-making asset for homeowners.

What does this technology mean for installers?

Often the short-term expense of buying and installing bi-folding doors is a worry for homeowners. A bi-fold door fitted with a transparent solar panel could completely change this. Theoretically, a transparent solar panel could create a whole new USP for homeowners: the ability to generate endless electricity.

TWR: aluminium bi-fold specialists

TWR are specialists in the manufacture of market leading aluminium bi-folding products. We employ the finest craftsmen and women in our state-of-the-art factory to ensure that every product we create is manufactured to an impeccably high standard. Want to know more? Visit our website to learn more about our high spec residential bi-folds and commercial bi-folds.