In Saskatoon, Canada’s sunniest city, PV-cells integrated in stained glass generate colour, beauty – and solar energy. It’s proof that harvesting energy can not only be easy, but beautiful too.
Glass artist Sarah Hall and engineer Christof Erban developed the concept of placing solar cells between layers of glass. When Saskatoon’s Cathedral of the Holy Family commissioned Hall to design three new stained glass windows, she saw the opportunity to combine an old glass art form with modern solar technology. In her resulting stained glass installation, called ‘Light of Glory’, 1,000 small solar cells are embedded in 54 stained glass panels.
To produce the coloured photo-voltaic windows, Hall’s sketches were sent to a manufacturer in Germany where large sheets of glass enamel were airbrushed by hand. Because solar cells are not transparent, a painted ‘dichromic’ glass was added to the back of the cells. The silver painted colour of the glass makes the cells colourful and reflective and integrates them into the artwork. After the glass was tempered, the solar cells were embedded into the panels.
The installed PV-cell windows are estimated to generate about 2,500 kilowatt hours of power each year, equivalent to about 20% of the electricity used each year in the average Canadian household. The cathedral is able to use the solar energy produced by the stained glass to offset its own power consumption from the grid.
It is the first example of a building-integrated photovoltaic system (BIPV) where solar panels are embedded directly into walls, windows or other parts of a building. It is a trend that is expected to grow, as it offers an alternative to the traditional practice of mounting bulky and often ugly solar panels on rooftops.
This Canadian design also brings awareness to harvesting solar energy. Solar cells need not be hidden away on roofs: harvesting energy can be both easy and beautiful.
You can read more about Sarah Hall’s projects here.