An office building at Patagonia’s headquarters now sports 22 solar windows developed by NEXT Energy Technologies | Credit: Courtesy

NEXT Energy Technologies got its start 10 years ago at a Santa Barbara office park, where a small team of UCSB grads toiling away on equipment bought at auction achieved something amazing. They developed a transparent photovoltaic (PV) coating that turns commercial windows into energy-producing surfaces, opening the door to a whole new world of solar power.

Last month, NEXT teamed up with Patagonia ― a globally recognized brand and leader in sustainable business practices ― to install 22 of their windows at the company’s headquarters in Ventura. It marked the first time NEXT’s technology is being demonstrated outside the lab and on a building. 

NEXT CEO Daniel Emmett called it “a huge milestone for us. … We’re grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Patagonia to demonstrate our technology in action and share the numerous benefits to building owners, developers, and occupants.” Those benefits, he said, include “reduced operating expenses, increased building value, improved building resilience, relieved pressure and reliance on the grid, and reduced carbon footprint.”

The windows went up on the south-facing face of the Olive Building on Patagonia’s main campus and will deliver dedicated power to common spaces for charging phones and other devices. The company has been using solar power at its headquarters in Ventura since 2005 and at its Reno Distribution Center since 1996, said Patagonia spokesperson Corley Kenna. “We rely on 100 percent renewable electricity for our owned and operated facilities in the United States and 76 percent globally,” Kenna said. “Finding better ways of doing business is something we always strive to do, and we’re pleased to partner with NEXT Energy.”

NEXT’s windows are made by printing a transparent photovoltaic coating ― made of organic semiconducting materials ― directly onto glass, which is then sealed behind a second sheet of glass integrated into a traditional glazing system. “We spent years of R&D to design façade systems for Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV),” said Shiloh Kocelj of Walters & Wolf, a glass fabrication company working with NEXT. “The dream of a seamless plug and play BIPV façade is a reality, and we are all very excited for the possibilities.”

NEXT estimates its windows are capable of producing 20-30 percent of the power produced by conventional solar panels alone. And by leveraging building faces, instead of just rooftops, its windows have the potential to offset anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of a typical commercial structure’s energy load, the company said. 

“Global building stock is expected to double by 2060, and if transparent PV windows can be deployed widely on buildings during this timeframe, they have the potential to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by over one gigaton per year, a huge opportunity for climate impact,” Emmett said.

A demonstration of the windows’ clarity and transparency at La Arcada mall | Credit: Courtesy

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