Solar window start-up aims to turn skyscrapers into vertical solar farms with investment from major window manufacturer

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  • Omnipresent Energy just closed a $30 million funding round to get its solar windows ready to be manufactured. It aims to have mass production by early 2024.
  • One of the major investors was the Anderson Corporation, a top window and door manufacturer.
  • The omnipresent energy forms a clear window solar coating, separating it from others in space.

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a physics start-up, omnipresent energy, is raising tens of millions of dollars to convert windows into surfaces that capture solar energy. The California start-up announced Tuesday that it has closed a $30 million funding round, which includes an investment from the consumer window and door manufacturing giant Anderson Corporation, raising its total funding to $70 million.

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Omnibus creates a coating for windows that uses a semiconductor material to convert sunlight into electricity. The coating is just nanometers thick and tiny wires connect the solar window to the electrical systems where the energy is harnessed.

The pre-revenue company will use the most recent funding to conduct manufacturing research and development work, CEO Susan Stone told Businesshala. Stone said the ubiquitous goal is to have mass production by early 2024.

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When they get there, “we’ll be able to make floor-to-ceiling glass,” Stone said. “We can turn skyscrapers into vertical solar farms.”

Omnibus is also targeting the home residential market, which makes Anderson’s investment particularly strategic. Anderson is a private company and did not disclose its financial status, but told Businesshala that it had more than $3 billion in revenue in 2021.

Anderson was particularly impressed by the omnibus because its solar film is clearly and unobtrusively integrated into the window frame.

Prabhakar (KP) Karri wrote, “While there are competing solar window technologies under development, most have tradeoffs in transparency, color, field of view, haze or energy efficiency, leading to consumers having to use them as an alternative to standard windows. It has become challenging to accept in.” and Carl Holling, who led the company’s investment, answered Businesshala’s question.

Stone knows that this transparency is the key to success.

“They have to look different from traditional windows, or we won’t see a large-scale deployment,” Stone said. “Aesthetics is our guiding light.”

30% more expensive than regular window glass

The $30 million increase is a bridge to get the company ready for construction after more than a decade of work. Ubiquitous was founded in 2011 and its technology was born out of work done by scientists and engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michigan State University.

Since then, more investors and consumers are beginning to recognize that addressing climate change is an urgent priority. Ubiquitous and its investors are counting on this sense of urgency to drive demand for their product despite its high cost – solar-electric window panels are estimated to be about 30% more expensive than regular glass depending on the scale of production. But after going into the windows, Stone told Businesshala.

Solar glass is also less efficient than conventional solar panels, which operate at maximum 22% efficiency — Measurement of the amount of sunlight that falls on the surface of a solar panel and is converted into electricity.

There is a window in Omnibus’ research and development pipeline that would provide about 10% efficiency, or “nearly half that of conventional solar,” Stone said, but its theoretical maximum capacity is about two-thirds the potential efficiency of regular solar panels.

Part of that lower efficiency is simply because the windows are vertical, while the solar panels are laid horizontally, allowing them to collect more direct sunlight.

“But we enable a surface that was not already generating electricity to generate electricity,” Stone said. “Glass has always been inactive, and we’re activating it here.”

By 2050, the ubiquitous is expected to have one billion square feet of window panes installed globally.

It’s an ambitious goal, and Stone has a clear vision of the challenges ahead.

“The things that keep me up at night are, ‘Can we meet our production timeline?’ ‘Will we find that exact right manufacturing location that allows us to break ground on our deadline? Will that ramp to production go as smoothly as we think?’

While Stone is focused on implementing architectural glass right now, this is only one step in a long-term vision.

“We have amazing applications in all kinds of industries, like consumer electronics, like automobiles, and even agriculture,” Stone said. “So we’re not stopping at the windows.”

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