The University of Newcastle (UON) has unveiled Australia’s first printed solar field.
This week, the university revealed a 100sqm demonstration site to test its printed organic solar film.
“There are just three demonstration sites at this scale that we know of anywhere in the world, so Australia has joined quite an elite group of global leaders poised to make this technology a commercial reality,” says UON professor and creator of the solar film, Paul Dastoor.
According to Dastoor, the materials are able to be rapidly manufactured. This enables accelerated deployment into the workplace – and, with any luck, more widespread adoption than traditional solar panel systems.
“No other renewable energy solution can be manufactured as quickly. On our lab-scale printer, we can easily produce hundreds of metres of material per day. On a commercial-scale printer, this would increase to kilometres. If you had just ten of these printers operating around the clock, [you] could print enough material to deliver power to 1,000 homes per day.”
The process is also extremely affordable, with production of the printed solar panels costing less than $10 per square metre. The printed solar is made by printing an “electronic ink”, developed by Dastoor’s UON team, onto clear laminated sheets. This can be done using a conventional printing process.
Another benefit of the material is that it is light and portable. At the demonstration site, the film is being fixed on walls and roof space with velcro.
As a result of being both lightweight and low-cost, the technology is ideal for applications in developing countries, and for disaster relief and recovery applications.
The demonstration site has enabled final-phase testing and modifications of the system before the renewable energy technology is made available to the public.
Already, the technology has attracted its first commercial partner, global logistics solutions company CHEP. The company are working with UON to rollout a commercial-scale pilot installation of printed solar on the roof of one of its service centres. The pilot is anticipated for the next financial year.