Solar energy has proven its usefulness in some, but not all, use cases. One of the major mitigating factors is the bulky footprint and displeasing aesthetic associated with older versions of solar panels. Good news is here, however, as transparent solar panels are on the horizon. Several companies have completed proven prototypes of transparent solar panels, and are close to having their product available via mass production. The folks at Interesting Engineering have broken down the large variety of cutting-edge solar panel technology, including their use cases and energy efficiency.
How companies have designed their transparent solar panels to function varies among companies. In the above video posted by Michigan State University, Professor Richard Lunt breaks down how one type of transparent panel is designed to absorb all non-visible light coming from a source and disperse it to the edges of its surface. From there, a small strip of solar cells placed around the edges convert the stored energy into electricity. This sort of technology could turn entire skyscrapers into a solar farms, with the goal of harvesting enough energy to power the entire building. In theory, self-powering cities could become a reality.
The video also mentions a similar technique using a laminate material to retrofit existing structures, enabling them to take advantage of any otherwise incidental sunlight they are exposed to.