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When we think of solar panels, we typically either visualize them on roofs or scattered about a desert somewhere. However, thanks to some innovative work, we may soon see them elsewhere—and in colder climates, too.

Recently, the new SyracuseCoE building (with LEED Platinum certification) was dedicated. This center was designed to be used as a living laboratory and also for showcasing new technological ideas. One of the first things to be showcased can be found in an area specifically for testing window systems. What is this thing? A concentrated solar façade.

At first glance, it simply appears as one of those cubed windows you may see in buildings or hospitals. However, closer observation will show that these windows actually harness solar power. How? Well, first, within the window you’ll find a number of transparent pyramid lenses. These lenses can track the sun and concentrate the rays onto high-efficiency PV cells.

This system can provide everything from electricity to thermal energy—all simultaneously. Any power not used can be captured for hot water and solar gain is also reduced. The “windows” themselves are 8 feet by 8 feet and the system was designed by CASE.

If the tests work, you can expect to see these solar facades marketed by HeliOptix. Oh, and you can also check out a video of how the system works here (QuickTime video).