Cheaper, efficient solar power in sight with funding boost

August 11 / 66

Affordable solar energy for Australians is one step closer with $3.5 million in funding awarded to a University research project by the Victorian and Federal Governments.

The grant will allow further development of revolutionary plastic solar cells produced by a team of Victorian researchers.

Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien and his Commonwealth counterpart Martin Ferguson announced the new round of funding for the Organic Solar Cells Project from the Victorian Government Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) at the Bio21 Institute last week. 

Scientists from the University of Melbourne, CSIRO and Monash University produced the flexible, plastic solar cells, printed with a light sensitive ink to convert sunlight into energy. 

The new grant will facilitate the development of new materials and devices for the printing process, enabling production of inexpensive, mass-produced solar panels.

Dr David Jones from the Bio21 Institute said the funding would bring Victoria one step closer to achieving a sustainable energy future.

“The implementation of environmentally-friendly power, such as solar electricity, is becoming increasingly important for Australia as we strive to meet current and future carbon dioxide reduction targets. The grant recognises the viability of this new technology and will help to make it commercially available,” Dr Jones said.

“We expect the new solar cells to drastically increase the use of solar electricity in Australia. As the cost of producing solar panels significantly decreases, the technology will become more accessible. Our aim is to make solar cells cost-effective, so that it’s a logical choice to use solar energy rather than any other sort of energy.”

He said solar electricity was a well-recognised, environmentally friendly energy source but most common types in the market were bulky, expensive and mounted on a relatively heavy brittle glass base, and the manufacturing process was relatively energy-intensive.

“The new materials will be formulated into inks and delivered into our printing program, speeding up the technology transfer,” Dr Jones said.


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