The solar industry is slowly growing, but for many, installing solar panels is too costly and inconvenient for the benefits. A new development out of Australia could change that, though. A University of Newcastle innovation could putsolar techalmost anywheremore cheaply and more quickly than with current solar panels.
Professor Paul Dastoor and theUniversity of Newcastle’sCentre of Organic Electronicshave been working on printed solar panel technology. Theteam makes theseby printing electronic ink (using a standardprinting press) onto transparent laminate sheets. The non-toxic panels can then be installed for about $7.42 per square meterwhich equalsabout 69 cents per square foot.That’s significantly cheaper thanTesla’s Solar Roof project, which costs $21.85 per square foot.
“No other renewable energy solution can be manufactured as quickly,” Dastoor said in a press release. “The low cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting.”
As to the ease of manufacturing, Dastoor says that if they had merely 10of these printers working 24/7, they could print enough solar material for1,000 homes eachday. Right now, the system is being tested out in a 100-square meter demonstrationsite. There, Dastoor’s team can properlyanalyze the panels’ performance in large-scale, real-world conditions.
This demonstration will also give researchers a chance to test the durability of these panels. The panels are so lightweight, they can be rolled out onto a roof with Velcro.
The team hasn’t detailed exactly how much energy these printed solar panels produce (perhapsbecause they’re stilldetermining that). However, Dastoor’s team knowsthat this technology is better at deliveringconstant power in low light and cloudy conditions. In fact, it can even produce a small amount of energy from moonlight.
In the U.S.,somewhere between 1and2 million residentscurrently have solar panels installed on their homes. Printed, flexible solar cells like this couldhelp bolster adoptioneven faster. And althoughprinted solar panels could be useful on homes or onbusinesses, Dastoor sees these printed stripsbeing particularly useful forthe 1.2 billion people who don’t have access to any electricity. It could also be quickly deployed in disaster relief scenarios.
Dastoor’s technologyalready has interest from a commercial partner, so we could see printed panels rolling out sooner than later.