Researchers unveil Australia’s first printed solar field

University of Newcastle Professor Paul Dastoor

Researchers at the University of Newcastle (UON) have unveiled its first printed solar demonstration site, cementing Australia’s position as a global leader in the technology.

Printed solar creator, UON’s Professor Paul Dastoor, said at one hundred square metres in size, there were only two other comparable sites worldwide.

“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,” Professor Dastoor said.

He said the material could be rapidly manufactured, enabling accelerated deployment into the marketplace.

“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 we could print enough material to deliver power to 1000 homes per day.

“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 baseload power.”

Professor Dastoor said the demonstration site enabled final phase testing and modifications of the system before the renewable energy technology could be made available to the public.

“This installation brings us closer than we have ever been to making this technology a reality. It will help to determine the lifespan of the material and provide half-hourly feedback on the performance of the system,” Professor Dastoor said.

The material is created by printing an advanced electronic ink onto paper thin, clear laminated sheets using conventional printing presses.

The electronic ink and printing process were both pioneered by the UON team.

The technology delivers unprecedented affordability at a production cost of less than $10 per square metre.

Researchers will monitor how large areas of these unique printed solar cells respond under different real-world conditions.

Professor Dastoor said that unlike traditional PV panels, the technology maintained a more constant power flow in low-light and cloud cover.

“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,” he said.

The material is so sensitive it can produce small quantities of energy from moonlight.

Professor Dastoor said the light-weight, easy installation qualities of the material, printed at UON’s NIER facility, could help cast a new light on age-old energy problems.

“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 technology has already attracted its first commercial partner, global logistics solutions company CHEP.

CHEP Australia’s senior manager sustainability Asia-Pacific Lachlan Feggans said they were working with UON to rollout a commercial scale pilot installation of organic printed solar on the roof of one of its service centres next financial year.

Professor Dastoor has been invited to demonstrate his technology at printing tradeshow Pacprint at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre next week, which will include Australia’s first public display of his futuristic energy technology.