Innovation | Generate clean energy with your windows – La Presse

La Presse takes a look at the innovations that will shape the Quebec of tomorrow.

Updated at 12:00 p.m.


How could the sun-heated windows of large buildings in a city center provide clean energy all day long? A Toronto company offers its solution: blinds for photovoltaic cells.

At first glance, Morgan Solar’s robotic blinds look like any other product of the same type. Their horizontal slats open, close and move up and down using small remote-controlled motors.

But make no mistake: Each of these blinds is a technological marvel, capable of producing up to 200 watt-hours, according to John Paul Morgan, an engineering physicist who founded his company in 2007 at age 27. Last year, the trade magazine Corporate Knights ranked the company among the 50 fastest-growing environmental companies in Canada.

“200 watt hours multiplied by 1000 windows represents a production capable of powering the building’s lighting system and even more,” affirms this Albertan in more than acceptable French, which he learned in the Congo during a humanitarian mission of the Médecins Without Borders organization .

This year-long stay in a remote region made him realize the full potential of the sun’s rays, he says. “The supply of gasoline or diesel was expensive and complicated. It was more logical and economical to generate electricity on site using photovoltaic systems. That’s when I realized that solar energy was the solution of the future. »

At home, the young engineer started his company with the idea of ​​producing low-cost solar panels to make solar energy as affordable as possible. But faced with a flood of Chinese products, it instead focused its efforts on developing more efficient panels.

Innovation Generate clean energy with your windows – La


John Paul Morgan, founder of Morgan Solar

“Instead of hiring sales people first, I started by hiring scientists,” says John Paul Morgan.

The result of this research: easy-to-manufacture solar modules equipped with small optical lenses that concentrate the rays on 1 millimeter cells. Thanks to software developed by Morgan Solar researchers, the same panels change orientation on a rotating axis to follow the sun like a sunflower.

According to the company, the whole thing enables an increase in efficiency of 25%.

Short circuit

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All solar energy that large urban buildings could produce must be channeled.

Another way to improve energy efficiency would be to generate as much electricity as possible where it is consumed, John Paul Morgan always said, fascinated by the concentration of large urban buildings affected by the solar energy that has yet to be channeled.

The problem we face is that solar panels are unsightly and give off heat. We can’t just cover the facade of buildings with solar panels. We would then create huge heat islands.

John Paul Morgan, founder of Morgan Solar

For residents who want a clear view of the outside, installing translucent solar panels taped to windows is not an acceptable solution. “The question was what to do to capture the energy without blocking the view or the light,” Mr. Morgan summarizes.

The trigger was a project carried out in 2021 at the CD Howe building in Ottawa. This 11-story glass block poses problems for its residents due to excessive heat and light. The building’s tenant, the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, asked Morgan Solar to propose a solution and therefore use the 11th floor windows as a technological showcase.

“We coupled our control software with motorized blinds to control the incidence of light. The blinds automatically adjust to the position of the sun and the cloudiness. Just reducing the air conditioning needs of one floor resulted in energy savings of 10%,” says Morgan.

“And then we said to ourselves: ‘Why not attach photovoltaic cells to the blinds?’ “, he continues.

Electricity mini-grid

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Blinds with photovoltaic cells: you had to think about it!

The idea of ​​combining blinds and panels offers several benefits, starting with hiding the technology behind a generally accepted aesthetic. “It looks like some kind of blindness,” Morgan says.

Because the panels are protected behind the windows, they are unlikely to be damaged by pollution and bad weather. Their installation would also not require any external work. Their cost would be competitive with motorized blinds currently available on the market.

Where does the electricity generated go? The owner of the building has two options, explains the president of Morgan Solar: sell electricity to Hydro-Québec or build their own power grid. “Energy can be stored in batteries to power an internal mini-grid and act as an emergency system in the event of a power outage. »

Innovation Generate clean energy with your windows – La


Morgan solar blinds look like any other blinds at first glance!

Morgan Solar’s blinds are still in the prototype stage and are individually designed depending on the project. Mr. Morgan said the first generation will be installed in buildings in Toronto and Ottawa by March next year. A building in Montreal was supposed to serve as a demonstration platform, but the economic downturn caused the project to be postponed, he says. “The developer has decided to start building in Toronto. »

It’s only a matter of time before buildings generate electricity, believes John Paul Morgan. “It is a cost-effective solution. An owner has to equip these buildings with blinds anyway. With solar sensor blinds, this effort brings him a profit. »