Smart coatings offer solar panel makers ways to increase efficiency, lower costs and create higher value-added products, according to a new report from NanoMarkets. Because these are the three main factors determining success in the photovoltaics (PV) industry, NanoMarkets believes that sales of smart coatings to the PV sector, which are negligible now, will reach $504 million in 2016, growing to $847 million in 2018.

Self-cleaning coatings deposited on PV panels promise both higher panel performance and lower maintenance costs. Self-cleaning glass is already available from major glass manufacturers, so no great leaps in technology are required to deploy it in the PV space. By 2016, self-cleaning smart coatings sold into the PV sector are expected to reach more than $150 million in revenues.

Smart coatings that feature electrochromic and similar on-demand tinting will generate $222 million from sales to the PV sector in 2016. NanoMarkets predicts that, by then, lucrative opportunities will have arrived in this sector through the melding of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) glass panels with electrochromic smart windows. NanoMarkets also foresees electrochromic PV windows that incorporate OLED technology so they can serve as lights after dark.

Thermochromic smart coatings are also expected to play a role in PV. These can be used to turn panels “off” under extreme heat conditions that could permanently damage them. Some PV technologies-notably CdTe PV-are sensitive to heat, and permanent degradation is possible if the panels are operated at too high a temperature.

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