By Camila Hernandez*
*This article was written by Camila Hernandez, and selected as the winning essay for the EnergyRates.ca College Scholarship 2024. Hernandez is a third-year student at the University of Manitoba, majoring in Global Political Economy and minoring in Environmental Science.
Ever find yourself staring out a window, caught in the city’s hustle and bustle? You cannot miss those skyscrapers hogging the skyline. They are not just stealing the city’s greenery, but also messing with the weather, playing a hot and cold game, and degrading the environment (1). These high-rise buildings with their substantial material consumption, offer us little in return. But what if we could turn that around? What if we could take all of that overlooked potential and make it useful?
We all praise solar power, how the sun will always provide an infinite amount of energy, yet we squander its potential. Why do we not use it more? We encounter one of the biggest challenges, how can we maximize the utility of solar energy? There is a limited amount of people who can afford to put solar panels on their roofs, and so many solar farms on the outside of cities. There has to be a better alternative.
In 2014, a team of researchers at Michigan State University recognized the environmental need for a more productive renewable form of energy. They developed a solar concentrator that can be placed over windows to absorb ultraviolet and infrared light, allowing for the absorption and distribution of energy. And the best part is, it not only works on windows but basically any surface, including car windows and even our phones. (2)
Consider the skyscraper One Chicago, or The Burj Khalifa in Dubai. They are covered in windows that possess the potential to generate thousands of watts of energy. Imagine powering not only the building but also the city and its surroundings. Consider also the 1.4 billion cars in the world (3), this would transform the transportation industry as we know it. Several companies have realized this lost potential in buildings and are now generating transparent solar panels to be laced in windows. However, the truth is, it is still out of our reach. We have the technology at our fingertips, and we still struggle to implement it. The only thing we can do is fund these companies, demand regulatory practices once they are available, and take care of our environment the most we can in the meantime.
Even though solar-powered windows are not a thing right now, I am confident that once they hit the market, people are going to jump in the bandwagon. It is a lifetime opportunity, offering a way out of our current energy mess. Imagine ditching the old exploitative ways for something more sustainable and pocket friendly. It would not just be a shift in our energy consumption, but a change in our lives and those of our future generations.
(1) Nancy Y. Nugroho et al., “Effect of high-rise buildings on the surrounding thermal
environment,” Building and Environment 207 (January 2022): 1, https://doiorg.uml.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2021.108393
(2) Tom Oswald, “Solar energy that doesn’t block the view,” Michigan State University, August 9,
(3) CarParts.com Research Team, “How Many Cars Are There in The World?,” CarParts.com –
Automotive and Tech Writers, December 5, 2023, https://www.carparts.com/blog/how-manycars-are-there-in-the-world/#:~:text=of%20the%20world%3F-