A next-generation window technology could gain momentum toward deployment, as Ubiquitous Energy announced it was invited to submit a secondary application for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program. The program’s loans are designed to support decarbonization technologies in their final stages of development before commercialization. The proposed loan guarantee would support the development of a manufacturing facility where the Redwood City, Calif.-based company plans to produce transparent solar windows, providing “hundreds of new clean energy jobs” in the process.
In August 2019, Ubiquitous stated it was working on new research and testing programs for a transparent solar coating that can be applied to vertical surfaces, turning traditional glass into a source of electricity.
“We are thrilled to have been invited to submit a Part II application for the DOE’s highly competitive Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program,” said CEO Susan Stone. “This opportunity will allow us to accelerate the commercialization of our innovative transparent solar technology and bring it to market faster.”
To date, DOE’s program has provided more than $25 billion in loan guarantees, with another $62 billion available to accelerate commercial deployment. Eligible projects must use a new or significantly improved technology, avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gases, be located in the U.S. and have a reasonable prospect of repayment. According to program officials, adequate debt capital remains limited while significant capital is available for decarbonization technologies. The program’s guaranteed loans serve as a “bridge to bankability,” providing access to loans and loan guarantees when private lenders are unwilling to fund projects that haven’t reached commercial acceptance.
Ubiquitous’ technology has achieved mainstream interest in recent weeks among key consumer media outlets, including an appearance in Forbes magazine’s real estate section and with technology news provider CNET. Company officials said its UE Power technology “produces solar electricity and integrates into standard windows without sacrificing beauty, design or views,” marking a departure from previous attempts at photovoltaic (PV) glass, which have so far failed to achieve transparency. Meanwhile, “With the built environment generating 40% of annual global CO2 emissions and the global building floor area expected to double by 2060, there is an urgent need for zero-emissions energy sources to power the present and propel the future,” officials for Ubiquitous suggested.
Andersen Corp. CEO Chris Galvin heralds the technology as a “transformational opportunity” for the industry.
“We’ve spent the last hundred years thinking about windows and doors as energy efficiency products to keep the cold or heat in. If I could think of anything that will transform our industry … solar will be the technology,” he says. “If you think about going from energy efficiency to actual energy generation, it completely changes the game and the role of windows. And the development that we’re doing with Ubiquitous is going to get us there.”
Galvin adds the two companies aim to develop windows that produce enough energy not only to run powered components, such as hardware, shades and blinds, but to feed electricity to other items within the home eventually and even to the local grid.
“If you can think about windows rather than being efficient and losing energy, but gaining energy and collecting it from the sun, that’s the biggest transformation,” he says. “And I think it will probably take our industry in a different direction regarding how we think about energy efficiency.”