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February 24, 2010 > City to showcase Smart Window technology

City to showcase Smart Window technology

By Steve Wyant

In early February, the City of Milpitas began seeking federal funding to install "smart" windows on public facilities as part of a test and demonstration site. Known as "electrochromic windows," they change their tint using electronic controls, either automatically or manually. Changes in tinting blocks light and reduces radiant heat absorption, resulting in overall energy savings over existing windows.

The city will benefit by reducing energy costs and will also support a local startup business whose technology they'll be showcasing. By supporting the early adoption of the new technology, they hope to provide a stimulus to a local manufacturing facility, thus creating additional jobs. The city will also improve its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, enhancing green building efforts.

The first public facility proposed for the project is the Public Works/Police Department building, as it is currently being upgraded with a new HVAC system. As many windows as possible on the East facing side of the building will be replaced. Smart window technology, coupled with a new heating and cooling system, will result in a highly energy efficient facility.

Milpitas Economic Development Manager Diana Barnhart stated that Milpitas-based start-up Soladigm initiated contact with the city to develop the project using their technology. Soladigm was recently awarded a patent (7,646,526) for an active electrochromic thin-film material comprised of an alloy of antimony and one or more base metals. According to their website, "Soladigm is developing next-generation green building solutions with a global impact. By bringing together a world-class team and resources from the glass, optical coatings and semiconductor industries, Soladigm is poised to deliver new and advanced performing products that significantly reduce energy use in buildings."

The National Institute of Standards and Technology estimates that "smart" windows can reduce a building's energy use by 30-40 percent. In summer, electrochromic windows would block ultraviolet rays and radiant heat from direct sunlight coming through the windows and skylights to help lower cooling needs.

The city has already begun the process of submitting applications for the funding, known as Federal Economic Efficiency Earmark Funds. The first application was due at Senator Diane Feinstein's office on Friday, February 5, 2010. Other applications went to Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Mike Honda's offices prior to a February 12 deadline. The total request for the funding is $1.5M.

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