The Australian government is investing $1.6 million in a project that is expected to create more affordable electricity systems by using printed solar panels according to Enterprise Innovation
2 Australian companies – the NSW-based start-up Solafast and the high-tech Melbourne-based printing company Norwood – will be joining forces with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in developing the technology that can integrate printed solar cells into buildings, which the government envisions to lead to commercial operation within the next few years.
According to Minister of Industry, Greg Hunt, the project is an extremely exciting project, which sees science partnering with industry in creating jobs and growth potential for Australia. If successful, the 2-year project will help cut down the cost of solar PV and create and environmentally responsible building material that doesn’t compromise architectural integrity.
The printed solar cells are made by printing solar inks into rolls of plastic film using industrial printing equipment. The resulting solar panels are thin, flexible and lightweight, thus they can be incorporated into objects and structures in ways that normal solar panels can’t.
Hunt said around 15% of Australian homes are installing domestic solar power systems, but the commercial sector remains untapped because of the expense, safety risks and the difficulty of installing the systems. He also said that by supporting this project, the government is helping the Australian industry to take advantage of Australia’s commercial solar market, which is estimated to be $250 million every year. The global market for printed electronics is expected to be worth about $40 million/year by the year 2020.
Dr Fiona Scholes, CSIRO Industrial Innovation’s group leader, said that each partner brings something important to the mix. CSIRO provides the solar know-how while Norwood can take printed electronics into the mainstream market and create large-scale industrial volumes.
Solofast’s innovative steel roll-forming technology completes the puzzle, allowing solar cells to be incorporated into the roof and external cladding products.
Featured Image Credit: Steve Rainwater