Printed PV?

Crisp packet thin PV cells on prepay atop your home?

A professor from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales thinks so!

Paul Dastoor. Photograph: University of Newcastle Australia

Professor Paul Dastoor has produced printed organic solar cells and begun a commercial trial on a Beresfield pallet repair facility.

And it only took a team of five one day to lay out the two hundred metre solar sheet on the factory roof.

The design and manufacture processes have all been done in-house at the uni itself in the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) facility and they are now at the top of the technology readiness tree.

It comes just a year after the first lab-scale demonstration of the highly innovative approach to photovoltaic power.

Velcro. Photograph: University of Newcastle Australia

The aim is affordability by way of undercutting costs of production. Less than $10 per metre square.

Assuming success for the trial, we could see it reaching residential market at a time not too far away.

Prepay PV

His vision for the way in which it will be purchased is almost as revolutionary as the design.

Rather than buying an array up-front,

“In future, we expect users might sign onto this energy solution in a similar way to a mobile phone plan. You determine your usage requirements, pay a monthly service fee, but never need to ‘own’ the infrastructure.”

The competitive production cost together with the large scale and short timeframe on which the cells can be manufactured, could see it making a considerable mark on the energy industry.

“On the University’s lab-scale printer, hundreds of metres of material can be produced per day, however upgrading production to a commercial-scale printer would increase this output to kilometres. No other renewal [sic] energy technology can be manufactured as quickly.”

The PV print-outs are additionally three hundred times lighter than conventional solar cells.

PV Paper. Photograph: University of Newcastle Australia

Qualifying the Praise

They are apparently only 2%-3% efficient.

That means they convert only 2% or 3% of usable sunlight into DC electricity. Some solar cells of the more familiar variety have hit 24.1%. Most can offer at least 15%+.

Then there’s this: “The system works in a lineal process, so if one module is problematic it affects the output of the entire system.”

Considering the cells are as thin as a chip packet and need to be left out in the elements to produce power...

Even the first bird to land on one presumably stands a sporting chance of completely upsetting the whole system, if I’ve read this correctly.

Still — steps in the right direction.

“...via experiments such as this commercial installation...we make vital tweaks to the system, which edge us ever closer to our goal of seeing this renewable energy technology on every roof.”

Steps in the Right Direction. Photograph: The Newcastle Herald

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