Solar panels are already an affordable energy solution since they generate enough power over their lifetimes to pay for themselves and then some. However, they do take some investment up front, and some people (and homeowners associations) dislike the way they look.
The idea behind solar paint (aka photovoltaic paint) is simple: It’d be like ordinary paint but with billions of light-sensitive particles mixed in, as Understand Solar notes.
When you paint it onto a surface, such as the wall of a house, it would turn that surface into a stealthy solar panel, generating electricity when the sun hits a surface with circuitry attached, per Treehugger.
Just like ordinary solar panels, that would be a great way to save money, since you could lower your electrical bill. It would be good for the environment, as users won’t need as much power generated from burning coal or oil.
According to the Solar Action Alliance, this isn’t just theory. The University of Buffalo has developed a light-sensitive material for use in solar paint, and the University of Toronto has developed a spray-on substance to make what is essentially solar wallpaper — which could lead to a direct spray-paint application.
“My dream is that one day you’ll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof,” said Illan Kramer, a postdoctoral fellow who helped develop the material.
What keeps that dream from being a reality so far is efficiency, as noted by the Solar Action Alliance. Right now, the typical solar panels have around 20% efficiency, meaning they turn about 20% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity. Experts cited by Solar Action Alliance estimate that solar paint would need about 10% efficiency to make sense as a commercial product.
The best-performing solar paint formula anywhere has only 8% efficiency, according to the alliance, but this developing technology is getting closer and closer to the point where it could be functional.
Imagine if you combined it with solar glass windows to capture every possible bit of sunlight — immediately turning every home and business into a generator producing electricity without air pollution, noise, or mess.
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