Hot on the heels of its debut in the US with solar windows powering the Sears Tower in Chicago, Israel’s Pythagoras Solar has earned a $100,000 award for its innovative and almost invisible energy-producing solar glass.
The GE Ecomagination Challenge award is given to companies with promising clean technologies that have the most potential commercial impact. The unusual solar company was co-founded by Gonen Fink, who has a B.Sc in computer science and physics and an MA in philosophy, which is surely one of the most unusual solar business backgrounds.
Pythagoras Solar devised a way to embed thin solar cells between dual panes of glass, so windows on the sides of skyscrapers (or skylights on top of buildings) can generate electricity. Prisms next to the solar cells catch and concentrate the sunshine, focusing it onto the cells, while also filtering the sun’s heat – reducing the need for air conditioning. The combination of energy efficiency and energy generation mean that buildings with Pythagoras solar windows can potentially be Net Zero buildings – that make as much power as they use.
Their solar glass is unusual among BIPV (building-integrated PV) offerings in that it can generate the same energy as regular solar panels, about 13 watts per square foot, while doing something solar panels don’t do: act as actual skylights or windows, letting in light, and keeing out heat. It will sell for between $100 and $125 a square foot when it is available to the general public later this year.
To select winners from among 5,000 cleantech entrants, awarding the prize based on originality, feasibility and potential impact, GE enlisted the help of innovation-hungry venture capital firms RockPort Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Emerald Technology Ventures, who are also members of the Ecomagination Initiative, GE’s global commitment to build innovative clean energy innovations. General Electric is the third largest company in the world, which makes its practical commitment to finding a new sustainable energy future all the more admirable and encouraging.
“We’re honored by the award,” said Udi Paret, Pythagoras Solar’s director of business development. “The company was founded with the idea of creating a solution that would change the energy equation, not just making renewable energy economically viable but also reducing the consumption of energy. The integration of the two is really what changes the equation.”
With the potential for an increase of business in the global market as a result of the Sears Tower exposure, the Israeli startup was already setting up shop with five people in California as well as its employees in Israel and China, for a total of 30 employees worldwide. With this new award, perhaps that number needs to be looked at again.
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