Edmonton tech firm to turn windows into solar panels, gets financial boost to go commercial

Minister Deron Bilous learns about how one company is trying to turn windows into solar panels. Sarah Kraus / Global News

A company operating out of the University of Alberta is one step closer to turning windows into transparent solar panels — thanks to a grant of carbon tax revenues.

Applied Quantum Materials (AQM) has a clean energy innovation called luminescent solar concentrators.

CEO David Antoniuk explains what they do: “We can apply a coating to the glass and the glass can absorb energy and it can transform that energy to solar cells which are located on the edges of the window-frame.”

The coating helps collect the UV light hitting the glass, and send it to the edges — where it can be converted into electricity.

“What you have is simply glass that’s coated, it’s transparent and it generates electricity. So for a building, it could be a net zero building,” Antoniuk said.

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“Because it absorbs the UV light, it acts as a filter. It reduces the heat load on a building, reducing the air conditioning costs as well.”

The company is working with All-Weather Windows to design and build the windows — and then in the future AQM is hopeful its partner, PCL Construction, will incorporate the technology into sustainable buildings. They hope to revolutionize the building industry and reduce the carbon footprint of infrastructure.

So far, Antoniuk says his team has proven their technology works — but now they need to apply the coating to bigger pieces of glass and make them more efficient at converting the energy.

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“I would say it’s about two to three years before we can start to have our first commercial units,” Antoniuk said.

As for a cost, he believes the payback on the windows would be between two and three years.

AQM was one of 29 companies awarded funding from the Climate Change Innovation Technology Framework’s clean technology development program.

“We had over 160 applicants for this first round of competition. There were 29 excellent ideas and companies chosen,” Alberta Innovates CEO Laura Kilcrease explained.

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There were $20 million in grants available and AQM received $420,000 of that.

“That’s tremendous,” Antoniuk said.

Alberta’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Deron Bilous, said this is a reason to celebrate.

“It’s taking the research out of the labs, off the shelf and commercializing it. So, there are day-to-day applications. When the average Albertan asks, ‘How does this impact me?’ Well here’s, for example, a technology that will help them reduce their monthly bills while also shrinking the greenhouse gas emissions.”

It’s not just the government supporting these clean tech innovations either: private investors are jumping on board too.

“For every dollar we put in, we already know we’ve got almost $3 out before we start the projects,” Kilcrease said. “But I think that will be a minor amount of money compared to the return on investment that will come from these products creating new companies, new jobs, access to markets overseas.”

This is just the start for the clean technology development program.

“There’s another roughly $75 million to go and we’re just putting the call out for the next round of these ideas,” Kilcrease said.

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