BlueScope Steel is edging closer to developing a solar roofing system, the company now expects to release a product to market within 12 months after the Federal Government pledged $2.3 million to support the project.

The company is working on a prototype that combines its steel roofing with thin-film solar panels, creating a sleeker, more efficient roof profile for use on new buildings.

energy minister Martin Ferguson and Cunningham MP Sharon Bird announced the funding for the building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) project in a bvisit to Bluescope’s facilities in Wollongong this week.

Ferguson said the project would make Australia a ‘‘world leader’’ in BIPV systems.

‘‘The prototype will be easily scaled up to the operational stage ensuring future BIPV systems can be cost-effective without government subsidies,’’ he said.

The Illawarra Mercury reports the BlueScope has been working on the renewable energy project for several years that would to see solar cells rolled onto hot rolled coil, ‘‘so that you can roll-form it straight onto houses’’.

The note that the prototype would bring BlueScope a step closer to allowing a solar component to be coated on like paint, something considered up to 10 years away.

BlueScope's general manager of sales and marketing, Andrew Garey, was quoted in the local newspaper saying the company hoped to take the product to market within 12 months.

He predicted that factory-applied photovoltaics paint systems were five to 10 years from becoming reality. "This is absolutely the nirvana of steel manufacturing," he said. "It would be fantastic for us, fantastic for manufacturing in Australia."

BlueScope has received $100 million from the Federal Government under the steel assistance package announced last year, and another $80 million is pledged.