Italy: Glass to Power crowdfunds €2.25 million, plans solar window fab

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The spin-off of the University of Milan Biocca has raised €2.25 million via crowdfunding to execute the next stages of its solar PV window plans. Federico De Nora Spa, the holding company of electrochemical technology multinational, Industrie De Nora Group, invested the lion’s share, with €626,740, or 25% of the capital.

According to Glass to Power, this is the most ever raised in an Italian crowdfunding campaign. The start-up initially amassed €300,000 in 2017, also via crowdfunding, in order to develop its technology to a pre-market stage, and to search for industrial partners.

Despite the success, the company does not intend to revert to crowdfunding in the future, however, business assistant, Alessanndra Fiorini tells pv magazine.“In the short-medium term we do not expect other funding rounds and we will probably not use crowdfunding. We expect to market our product at the beginning of 2019 and we will look for new industrial and commercial partners,” she said.

Last June, Glass to Power invested €1 million in acquiring the patents for its transparent PV windows from the University of Milan Biocca. The remaining capital will now be used to list on the Milan Stock Exchange within the next two to three years; and to finalize an industrial production line.

Industrial production

Glass to Power expects to co-invest €200,000 in the line with its partner, plexiglass company I&S. It will be located in Rignano sull’Arno, Florence, where the latter is headquartered. While the first experimental installations are set to be realized by the end of 2018, the former aims to market its product early next year.

“The investment will concern facilities and personnel and it will allow in a few months the realization of the first methacrylate production unit entirely dedicated to the needs of Glass to Power,” said Fiorini.

Regarding scale, she continued, “The production capacity will be correlated to our demand in the first stages. Another investment of 500K€ will be devoted to the NanoFarm project, in order to industrialize the production of the nanoparticle Glass to Power uses for its panels (the core of our technology). This project will be co-financed by the Province of Trento (it will be worth 1M€) and with the collaboration of the NanoSciences Lab of the University of Trento.”

The technology

Glass to Power utilizes Luminescent Solar Concentrator technology, and aims to reach an efficiency of 5%. Explaining the technology, and business case, in more detail, Fiorini said, “The target efficiency will be 5%, that is 50W per square meter. Our PV panels are based on the technology of luminescent solar concentrators (LSC): semitransparent slabs of plastic materials doped with chromophores which, following the absorption of sunlight, re-emit photons at a longer wavelength.

“These photons are driven by total reflection to the edges of the device where they are converted into electricity by conventional photovoltaic cells. The engineered nanoparticles used for our panels are covered by patents from professor Sergio Brovelli and Francesco Meinardi from the University of Milan Bicocca.

“Since our devices are transparent, they do not use all the light to produce energy, therefore their efficiency cannot be compared to standard opaque PV panels.

“However, the strength of our technology is that our panels can be installed on a much larger surface, that of modern glass buildings. With an efficiency of about 5%, it is therefore possible to produce relevant amounts of energy.

“For example, a facade of a building such as the Shard in London, if built with our LSC technology, would produce about 0.5 GWh, which correspond to the annual energy consumption of 100/150 medium-sized apartments. Our panels do not need to be co-located with other REs, they are however complementary. It possible to make them coexist with, for example, standard rooftop PV panels.”

Since the panels are doped with inorganic nanoparticles, they do not suffer degredation, said Fiorini. As such, warranties will be around 25 years – the same as for standard windows.

Applications

She added that while the windows have global market appeal, currently Europe, the U.S. and the Middle-East are of most interest.

“Our reference market is that of BIPV for large commercial and residential glass buildings. Our technology also suits in the case of architectural, historical or landscape constraints, contributing to the energy sustainability of existing buildings also where traditional PV cannot be installed. We have received a lot of requests from potential customers,” said Fiorini.

She concluded, “We have a collaboration agreement with KONE for the testing of our panels on glass elevators and a project for the installation of a roof garden in Capri. Some installation will be made at the University of Milan Biccoca.”