Buildings and windows are about to have a bigger hand in energy conservation.
That’s the goal of one Goleta startup called Next Energy Technologies, which aims to channel solar power via specially-made windows as a renewable energy source.
On average, Next Energy Technologies windows would produce 20 percent of a commercial building’s power needs, according to the company’s modeling so far.
The business, which formed after winning UC Santa Barbara’s Technology Management Program New Venture Competition in 2010, is finally moving from the research phase to commercialization — a goal its founders hope to achieve in 2018.
“They’re smart buildings,” said CEO and cofounder Daniel Emmett. “Windows are going from being a passive part of buildings to active. It’s an exciting time for buildings.”
Most commercial buildings could earn their investment back within one year of installation, he said, noting a focus on commercial, not residential.
Next Energy Technologies is raising its series B round of funding, already halfway to its $7 million goal with help from local investors and family offices, Emmett said.
The Goleta company located near the corner of Hollister and Patterson avenues uses photovoltaic materials — those that convert sun energy into direct electricity — encapsulated in a window, which eliminates the installation and mounting costs associated with solar panels, said Danny Seigle, vice president of business development.
Windows are transparent, lightweight, cost effective and aesthetically pleasing, Seigle said, with small lines and colors that can be tweaked like any other windows.
Next Energy’s electricity output is estimated to be 20 percent greater than equivalently rated silicon panels, since performance isn’t impacted by low-angle or low-light conditions.
The windows could be supplemental to traditional solar panels on rooftops, Seigle said, but the idea is gaining traction among people who own older buildings that can’t support solar panels.
Nearly half of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, Emmett said.
Energy savings over 30 years — the average lifetime of the windows — would be equivalent to taking 120 cars off the road.
Next Energy’s math shows a social impact of $6 billion, or $300 for every dollar invested, so it’s no wonder the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation have awarded the startup more than $3 million in grants.
That money helped Next Energy do research and testing in its lab, where co-founder and CTO Corey Hoven spends much of his time.
Hoven, who came across the technology while studying at UCSB for his Ph.D in material science, works alongside the company’s 13 other employees to scale up a 4-by-4-inch model for production.