Solar Energy with Jewel-Like Curtains on Windows
By Michael Hill in Business Week, March 4 2010
Cityscapes of glass-clad buildings gleaming in the sun make Anna Dyson think about wasted energy.
Dyson heads the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, or CASE, a research consortium that wants to turn office windows into multifaceted solar power generators. Their "integrated concentrating dynamic solar facade" consists of grids of clear pyramids that help focus the sun's rays to generate energy. It would essentially make buildings look as if they were draped in giant jeweled curtains.
A prototype gets a real-world tryout after the opening this week of an eco-friendly research building in Syracuse. Researchers at CASE -- a collaborative research group involving Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy and the international architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill -- call it a step toward exploiting the huge but largely untapped "green" resource of building exteriors.
"The reason we're interested in windows is because they have the largest surface areas, typically, in buildings -- especially in tall, urban buildings," said Dyson, a professor of architecture at RPI. "We have a lot of vertical surface area to work with to really generate a lot of power."