Could printed solar panels be a low cost solution to Australia’s energy crisis?

The University of Newcastle has unveiled a printed solar demonstration site, one of just three comparable sites in the world, to test its printed solar panel technology which could provide a cheaper, more convenient renewable energy solution to Australian homes.  

Photo:  Professor Paul Dastoor, printed solar creator (courtesy of The University of Newcastle).

Manufactured using a standard printing press, the ultra light panels are produced by printing an ‘advanced electronic ink’ onto paper-thin laminated sheets.

The panels are so light that they can be attached to walls or roofs in large laminated sheets using simple velcro strips, which would potentially make them far more convenient to install than conventional panels.

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“The low-cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting, particularly in the current Australian energy context where we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power,” said creator of the technology Professor Paul Dastoor.

“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.”

Costing just $10 a square metre to produce, the panels have been described as having the potential to deliver “unprecedented affordability”, with Professor Dastoor stating that just ten commercial-scale printers operating around the clock could print enough panels to provide energy to 1000 homes a day.

And unlike conventional photovoltaic (pv) panels, the new panels are able to maintain a more constant flow of power even under substandard conditions.

“Our printed solar solution continues to function consistently in low light and under cloud cover, which means that users don’t experience dips in productivity,” said Dastoor.

Aside from the obvious commercial applications in homes and businesses, Professor Dastoor believed that the technology could have more wide-ranging uses including in tackling some ‘age-old energy problems’.  

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“The technology is low-cost and very portable making it ideal for applications in Majority World countries where an estimated 1.2 billion people still have no access to electricity,” he said. 

“Because it is light and can be printed quickly it is also ideal for disaster relief and recovery applications supporting displaced people and powering temporary emergency bases. The material can be safely airdropped and very easily installed.”

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