Rooftop solar installations are great for homeowners, or those with eco-conscious landlords – but what about the rest of us? Sharp recently announced a break-through in home solar technology that could begin to answer that question. The company unveiled a transparent solar panel that can be mounted on balcony railings or high-rise windows without obstructing the view.

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The innovative new panels (which will launch in Japan on October 1) are tinted black, but they’re semi-transparent. This allows them to be arranged and installed on surfaces other than the rooftop. According to a recent press release, each panel is made of laminated glass infused with photovoltaic cells, and they will deliver a solar power conversion efficiency of about 6.8-percent with a maximum output of 95 watts. This pales in comparison to efficiency rates of traditional solar panels, but Sharp’s design is one of only transparent panels on the market and the company hopes to compensate with increased versatility.

The panel stands at 4.5-feet wide by 3.2-feet tall and is only 0.37 inches thick. When attached to a window or balcony railing, it will double as a heat shield, blocking sunlight that might otherwise lead to increased indoor cooling costs. Unfortunately, Sharp did not indicate plans to introduce the see-through solar panels in the USA, nor did they mention a price.

+ Sharp