The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how much we depend on electricity. Whether it is for powering ventilators and hospital equipment, domestic appliances, home PCs, digital communications or online services, we all depend on a reliable source of electricity.
However, our energy is currently sourced from a finite resource. We need to act now to ensure that we provide global access to the low-cost sustainable energy sources required to tackle the issues confronting our planet.
THE SOLUTION – Printed Solar Technology
It is widely recognised that plastic cells, known as Organic Photovoltaics (OPV), which convert sunlight into electricity, will play a major role in the future of renewable energy.
Professor Paul Dastoor and his team at the Centre for Organic Electronics at the University of Newcastle, Australia, have pioneered the development of water-based solar paint. This suspension of OPV materials in water can be printed at high speed to fabricate large areas, using roll to roll processing techniques.
These low-cost, printed solar modules offer immense potential as a lightweight, easily installed alternative to conventional, silicon-based solar panels, which are heavy and cumbersome.
Envisage a future where the surfaces of buildings or modes of transport could incorporate printed solar technology to generate power.
COSTS AND BENEFITS
The main challenges for printed OPV are those of efficiency and durability. However, extensive economic modelling shows that with only modest device efficiency and lifetimes, large area oriented solar technology can compete with coal generated power.
The projected efficiency of a pilot scale installation is around 1%–2% with a lifetime of between one and two years. For manufacture at scale, this would correspond to a cost of electricity as low as GBP 0.50 per kWh.
There has been a huge increase in the popularity of electric vehicles over recent years, but without a similar increase in the extent of the available charging network this could become problematic.
This project demonstrates how printed solar technology can be used in remote, real world settings for successful, off-grid electric car charging. Rather than developing special solar vehicles, or using heavy, commercially available solar panels, the project will utilise lightweight, printed solar cell panels. We are transporting them in the back of an electric vehicle and then rolling them out to use for charging the car as required.
The route around the entire coastline of Australia is testing the electric vehicle and the solar technology in some of the country’s most remote and challenging regions.
This ambitious research and development project comprises the following components:
- Design and development of an electric vehicle installation system for printed solar modules
- Design and development of a remote monitoring system
- Manufacture and characterisation of printed solar modules
- Printed solar modules charging performance testing at remote Australian locations
- Impact and stakeholder engagement assessment of printed solar charging project
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