Solar-based technologies are finding applications in virtually all aspects of life, providing alternative energy solutions and widening the range of options available to us. We've covered solar air-conditioners, solar car chargers, solar generators, solar water pumps, solar laptop chargers, solar water heaters, solar freezers, solar streetlights, solar roofs,, etc. Our last article in this series dealt with solar windows, this follow-up article will cover another solar energy solution, the solar window blind.
A window is an opening in a wall, door, roof, or vehicle that allows the passage of light, sound and sometimes air. Often times, windows have to be covered to manage sunlight, privacy, adverse weather or to provide additional weatherproofing for purely decorative purposes. Without the help of a definition, a solar window blind or simply a 'solar blind', is a type of window covering in the form of the blind, made of solar cells, that provides an additional utility, namely, the production of electricity from solar cells.
A window blind as shown in the photo above differs from other types of window coverings. Unlike its counterparts, it is often made from various types of hard material, including wood, plastic or metal bound by cords that run through the blind slats. They are controlled either manually or, in the most sophisticated ones, with a remote control.
The presence of hard parts and their interaction with sunlight make them attractive for solar-based applications. It is one among many others that seeks to take advantage of the most abundant source of renewable energy, namely, the sunlight.
Like all solar-based application, solar blinds are opportunities for homeowners to use existing architectural and interior spaces to generate electricity. Solar window blinds remove the necessity of additional use of architectural spaces, typically the roof. They are a way of converting already existing architectural spaces for electricity generation without any major infrastructural adjustment. A 3ft wide solar blind can produce up to 100W of electricity. The equivalent of the MTN Lumos, 100W of electricity can power a laptop, multiple smartphones and multiple energy saver bulbs. When fitted on multiple windows on a building, a homeowner maybe able to generate a large quantity of his power needs. This can mitigate a major problem especially with large-scale solar installation, that is, the loss of ground that can be used for agricultural purposes.
First movers into this niche, SolarGaps, say that they first designed the solar window blinds for renters and small businesses who do not have access or authorization to add panels to roofs. Their blinds' wall brackets aren't permanent and can be easily removed at will. They are to be used as simple plug and play devices.
SolarGaps offer users three options. Users can simply plug into the SolarGaps dock and charge DC-based devices like cell phones directly from the blinds. Or with the help of a SolarGap micro-inverter, they can use the blinds as battery chargers for use in the absence of sunlight. Or to become earners through spot marketing.
SunGaps sells their micro-inverter separately but provide it already attached to system so users, if they wish to, only have to plug in the SolarGaps system to have their AC devices and home appliances powered.
SolarGaps uses SunPower solar cells in their blinds. SunPower/Maxeon are the creme de la creme in solar panels. They have a lifespan of up to 25 years and efficiency ratings of up to 22.4%.
Also, SolarGaps comes with iOs and Android apps for control from anywhere around the world. SolarGaps is built to be integrated into smart home systems and is fully compatible with any smartphone, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
SolarGaps offers its blinds in variants of five colours including white, biege, metallic grey, brown and anthracite.
SolarGaps's blinds are 'smart' in the sense that they will automatically adjust to the angle of the sun rays in order to increase MPPT tracking and production.
They are also easy to clean.
Obviously, to be able to produce electricity, solar blinds must have access to sunlight and can be installed only outside even though they serve an interior purpose. This raises questions of security. SolarGaps says users of its solar blinds can digitally monitor their blinds anywhere in the world making the blinds incapable of being 'stolen' much less used afterwards. Yet, the question of possible still vandalization remains. Rooftop installations are the securest.
Surprisingly, solar blinds are not very expensive in comparison to solar panels. However, not every building has enough window spaces on which blinds can be installed to generate enough power. On the average, one window blind generates up to 100W. To be able to generate enough power for a wide range of home appliances, up to 50 window blinds or even more have to installed. Most buildings average 10 to 12 window spaces. In this scenario, additional rooftop installations will still be needed to provide the bulk of energy for the homeowner.
To be useful for a wide range of home appliances, an inverter has to be added to the system. This too, increases the cost of investment for the user. To maximize self-consumption, batteries will need to be added to the system. This will add substantially to the cost of investment. These makes the solar blinds a superfluity of aesthetics and luxury.
Solar blinds are new to the solar industry. They remain a niche product. But they will certainly grow with the industry and with the demand for more alternative energy solutions. Mean time, SolarKobo helps its clients in Lagos and throughout Nigeria create the perfect alternative power generation plan that fits their budget and meets their power needs.