How The Solar Window Is Moving Towards Commercialization

Posted on March 26th, 2012 by

John Conklin, CEO of New Energy Technologies, discusses how is relationship with the National Renewable Energy Lab has allowed his company to develop a commercially viable solar window.


Ben Lack: Let’s start by talking about the relationship with NREL. Why did you choose to work with them in order to figure out what types of technology you guys want to put together at the end of the day?
John Conklin: Great question, Ben. And I think what’s really important is, first off, a company that’s preparing to commercialize to technology has to remain in an ongoing research and development loop. With that, often you want to find target technologies which then go into product development, pursue many phases of product development as you march towards commercialization. But often as you go through the cycle of product development, you need to go back in to R&D to either further enhance or to look to see if there’s a potential spin off technology from what you’ve done it in the product development that then has some merit either via technology or financial. When looking at the universities or the institutions that New Energy Technologies, Inc. worked with, we’re keeping in mind that we are really an emergent developer of distributive power generation technologies. It was important for us to look at NREL, who has over thirty years of experience in helping industries or businesses to take technology into commercialization that brings a tremendous resource of skills both through learning and the research scientist. But importantly, they have access to equipment that allows us to step through various levels of product development. Otherwise, we would have to incur tremendous expense in purchasing equipment to get us through some of these steps. This allows us to very much focus our development goals and objectives on techniques and methods that we’re targeting and then be able to utilize NREL’s equipment in doing so — From there, going to advance stages of product development which would mean some form of incubation with the strategic industrial partner or another type of resource. NREL allows us to bridge the gap between what might be early R&D and commercialization by utilizing their talents and their equipment.
Ben Lack: Let’s talk technology for a second. What problem is your company ultimately trying to solve and use that as contrary to what technology you guys have built?
John Conklin: That’s a great question, Ben. I’m going to be very general inwhat some of our goals and objectives are. Perhaps what keepsme up at night is how we develop a transparent neutral blue-gray electricity generating coding that can be applied towindows to turn an ordinary UV protective coded window that may provide low E benefits and turn it into a power-producing panel. When rounding that up  and understanding what that all means; we’ve got transparency, we’ve got the qualities of being see-through, we want to be able to produce the electricity and get a high level of electricity from that usable space. But then importantly, it needs to be uniform, be aesthetically pleasing neutral blue-gray color and done with a very high visible light transmission or very high level of transparency. So what keeps me up at night is actually taking a window and as you look at your office, to be able to look out that window and have an unobstructed view. Somewhat slightly different color as if you’re looking out the windows of your automobile and not know that window is producing power because of the inherent design and the structure of the electricity-generating coding that we have developed.
Ben Lack: The industry’s always dreamed about having this type of ability with windows. What types of breakthroughs did you make with NREL in order to make this commercially viable?
John Conklin: I think there’s a couple there. The first is how we’re able to produce the very neutral blue-gray green color. First and foremost, architects, engineers, developers are not going to specify a window that’s typically blood red in color which is an inherent feature of an organic photovoltaic. To be able to develop the coding in that very neutral blue-gray color is a major milestone. Second is, we want to be able to produce power during very low light conditions. It is important to recognize that the electricity generating coding for SolarWindow™ works in both natural and artificial light. When we’re looking at that solar window, we want to be able to produce power inside and outside. We want to be able to utilize large surface areas in doing so. I’m going to have you ponder up this image in your head: gladiators on the roof of your skyscraper fighting it out for that very valuable limited rooftop space for the roof rack mounted system. We’re going to do an end of round and we’re going to look at those massive surface areas on that vertical profile to south east and west. Be able to account for that low light condition which is typically very early in the day, very late at night or under shady conditions. And importantly be able to bring the ability to offset power inside and utilize many of those glass surfaces that already exist on those buildings and offset energy using artificial light as well.
Ben Lack: Can you walk us through and share insight on the folks that are actively involved in the R&D process? So what it looks like for a technology like this? How do you actually make sure that the technology you’re designing actually works at the end of the day?
John Conklin: The answer to that is really complicated but I’ll just share this with you. The acceptance in performance test criteria is not really that much different than what conventional mono or poly crystalline PV would go through or thin film. The methodology is slightly different because this is of organic photovoltaic. But importantly, we’ve got reliability testing, we’ve got oxygen and moisture barrier testing, we’ve got combinatorial life cycle testing. And all of these are all part of what conventional PV modules go through today. We expect that we’ll be also going through the certification as well. Really what growing pains that New Energy Technologies will be going through — that SolarWindow™ will not be anything different than what we see in the conventional PV space. So that ultimately, what we wanted to be able to do is exactly what you asked, Ben. And that is when you’re ready to specify if you’re an architect or engineer or you’re a developer, you want to purchase and apply these windows to your building that you know that, that window will go up with the same performance integrity that the conventional PV as we know today goes through. It’s going to work and that has been validated through some performance measurement criteria that are consistent with the industry’s standard.
Ben Lack: Now that you’ve achieved this R&D milestone, what are the next steps?
John Conklin: Our next step is to move to product development through various commercial scalability. We’re also looking at ways that we can apply this electricity generating coding in a high speed technique. We are evaluating other industrial processes. Currently it’s a spray- on technique. We’re looking at being able to utilize very large surface area coding techniques, importantly looking at role to roll-to-roll techniques. So what we want to be able to do is be able to cope the SolarWindow all the layers of article fabrication in a high speed process that might be of wide width infinite length which is characteristic of a role to role methodology.
Ben Lack: Why are you in this business and why did you choose to do what you’re doing?
John Conklin: I think a couple of things there. First is, it is a very noble technology. The technology is very unique all to its own. I believe in the technology. I believe in the research scientists. I believe in the relationships that we have developed and continue to maintain with NREL and universities. And with that, we assembled a great team. The team has the integrity to stand by one another and be able to advance this through some major objectives.  In the simplest terms, believing in the technology, believing in the people and all our mutual goals to take this commercial.
Ben Lack: As you build your team and ultimately build the company up, can you share the pleasant surprise that you’ve experienced during the process? And also, can you share the challenge of going forward?
John Conklin: I think the pleasant surprise is two-fold. One of our major objectives of development through University of South Florida and being able to quote on large area glass but importantly being able to put the SolarWindow™ spray on electricity generating coding on plastic, that was major and that was one of those very much a “hurray” effort. The other is, some of our major objectives that we’ve accomplished with NREL is we set out not only to make some major advancements. Through those advancements that we discovered, we actually produced a record organic photovoltaic ray in the history of NREL that has never been done before. We’re working with some of the best organic photovoltaic scientists in the world, and with our principal scientist Dr. Scott Hammond, working with NREL was will be able to achieve something that NREL in its over thirty year history has never done, is a true testament not only to the team but one of those all “wow” moments that really resonated not only through the scientist but I would believe also resonated through industry.
Ben Lack: Share with us real quickly the challenge.
John Conklin: With that challenge, it has allowed us to now move towards commercial scalability and high speed high volume coding. It has allowed us to see that we can achieve a very important parameter which is power conversion efficiency to produce that very important voltage and current to maintain very high level of light transparency or transmission ultimately and also very high level of uniformity. It’s allowed us to go from what is typical of NREL which is one centimeter by one centimeter creating a world record by holding all of those performance parameters now allowed us to look beyond that to say what is our next major milestone and how does it align us to going commercial with the solar window.
Ben Lack: Before we let you go, is there anything you’d like to share with our audience?
John Conklin: I’d just like to share that we are very much focused on agile development. We’re continuously learning where our business model is centered around developing this technology, developing a strong team by which we do that and all of us working collectively to bring something to the world that currently doesn’t exist. We want to be able to create manufacturing jobs and we really are working extremely hard to make this a made-in-America solution that can offset energy in tall buildings both inside and outside. With that, I’d like to thank you, Ben and certainly The Daily Energy Report for giving us this opportunity and we look forward to staying in touch with you as we accomplish many more goals and objectives and keep you in tune with house solar window as moving towards commercialization.



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