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Solar panels: the new curtains

curtian.jpgGreenbang is very much down with the whole microgeneration thing. If Greenbang had her way, all outdoors workers, from tree surgeons to traffic wardens, would have to wear personal solar panels contained in big Pat Butcher style earrings and then milked for the energy they created at the end of every day like some uniformed electricity cow.

While Greenbang dreams of photovoltaic jewellery, others are working on solar paneled curtains. Others being Sheila Kennedy,
visiting MIT lecturing and principal architect at Boston firm, Kennedy & Violich Architecture where she’s the design director of its materials research group, KVA Matx.

Kennedy creates solar textiles: flexible solar panel-like materials that can turn up in everyday homes and offices.

From MIT:

Kennedy uses 3-D modeling software to design with solar textiles, generating membrane-like surfaces that can become energy-efficient cladding for roofs or walls. Solar textiles may also be draped like curtains.

Like curtains? Greenbang is enchanted.

Kennedy, for her part, will pursue her research in pushing the envelope of energy-efficiency and architecture. A recent project, “Soft House,” exhibited at the Vitra Design Museum in Essen, Germany, illustrates what Kennedy means when she says the boundaries between walls and utilities are changing.

For Soft House, Kennedy transformed household curtains into mobile, flexible energy-harvesting surfaces with integrated solid-state lighting. Soft House curtains move to follow the sun and can generate up to 16,000 watt-hours of electricity–more than half the daily power needs of an average American household.

Although full-scale Soft House prototypes were successfully developed, the project points to a challenge energy innovators and other inventors face, Kennedy says. “Emerging technologies tend to under-perform compared with dominant mainstream technologies.”

For example, organic photovoltaics (OPV), an emergent solar nano-technology used by the Soft House design team, are currently less efficient than glass-based solar technologies, Kennedy says.

But that lower efficiency needn’t be an insurmountable roadblock to the marketplace, Kennedy says, because Soft House provides an actual application of the unique material advantages of solar nano-technologies without having to compete with the centralized grid.


  • Steve O'Donnell
    Posted June 25, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Solar curtains sound expensive (both financially and perhaps even in total life energy cost) ordinary curtains are cheap and very effective. At home drawing curtains can significantly reduce heat loss, in business curtains in refrigerated buildings like cold stores and data centers are highly effective. See my article


  • Roger from Green Planet Solar Energy
    Posted June 17, 2008 at 1:01 am

    The solar curtains are a great idea and if they are as effective as stated they should be mandatory in new buildings and made available with rebates to the general population.

    We hear a lot about how solar energy has a low efficiency rate. Yet we have tolerated the ~25% efficiency of the petrol engine for many decades, and you don’t hear of industry refusing to build cars based on that.

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