Printed Solar Cells | University of Newcastle

The University of Newcastle has been able to deliver printed solar cells at a production cost of less than $10 per square metre. They are now powering a Newcastle business and showing results in the wild. Amazing steps forward for solar technology, and in our own backyard! How long until we can print solar cells at home using inkjet printers?

Printed Solar Cells – Breakthrough Technology

University of Newcastle physicist Professor Paul Dastoor has created electronic inks which are used to print the flexible solar panels – offering “unprecedented affordability” and could help solve the energy crises in New South Wales and Australia-wide.

“We are changing the climate, we know it’s because burning fossil fuels and we have to shift to renewables, even if leaders in Canberra can’t understand that,” he told AAP via the Bega District News.

“This technology has the potential to be enormously scalable … it’s fast, it’s low cost and doesn’t require anything special.”

The team are able to print hundreds of metres of solar cells at the Centre of Organic Electronics at the University of Newcastle. If a commercial scale printer were obtained, this could easily be upgraded to kilometres of cells. 

“The low cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting as we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power – a renewed concern as we approach another summer here in Australia,” Professor Dastoor said.

 
Printed Solar Cells via Paul Dastoor
Printed Solar Cells via Paul Dastoor of University of Newcastle (source: newcastle.edu.au)

Around 200 square metres of the printed solar panels has been installed at an industrial site owned by logistics company CHEP in Beresfield, near Newcastle.

This is a fantastic step forwards for solar panel technology People who are wanting to install solar into a rental property or those who don’t have access to a roof (apartment solar) will be licking their lips at the possibility. 

According to Wikipedia, these printed solar cells have a few main drawbacks:

  1. The efficiency of inket solar cells is “too low to be commercially viable” 
  2. Indium is a rare material and could be gone in 15 years.
  3. The ink needs to be weather resistant and can survive harsh conditions.

It looks like the efficiency of Dr Dastoor’s printed solar panels is around 2-3%, but at only A$10 per square metre when manufactured at scale, it looks like these modules are certainly commercially viable, even if they’re not the most efficient cells in the world. 

In six months they will remove the test panels from the CHEP roof and have a look at recycling the material. Professor Dastoor and his team will also run some statistics on how well the printed solar was able to perform. We’ll keep you updated! 

If you want to learn more about flexible solar panel tech, please click here

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Buy black solar panels in Australia – cost, review & more.

Today we’ll take a look at black solar panels. How do they perform compared to conventional panels? What are the best brands? And where can you buy them in Australia if you’re so inclined?

Where to buy black solar panels in Australia

Canadian Solar’s robust All-Black panels (CS6K-MS modules – click for datasheet) with 60 solar cells are specifically targeted for consumers in the residential market. 

Sunpower’s residential solar panel X-Series are, according to their website, offered in SunPower® Signature™ Black, “designed to blend harmoniously into your roof.” Built using all-black solar cells and anti-reflective glass to reduce glare, the premium aesthetics can accommodate a variety of architectural styles. Note that they didn’t mention performance at all – but if ‘premium aesthetics’ are important to you then these could be worth checking out (the black panels have 10W less output).

LG Solar’s NeON 2 solar panel comes in conventional colouring and also black. According to the datasheets the black panel is 4.4% larger in order to reach the 315/320 watt output of its less flamboyant solar sibling.

Black solar panels are more expensive and perform slightly worse than blue solar panels. With that said, if looks are important to you some quality manufacturers have some options – you certainly can’t go wrong with LG or Sunpower – and if you have a surfeit of space on your roof the extra 4.4% isn’t going to be a big deal.

Have you got any experience with black solar panels or would like to ask us any questions on them? Please sound off in the comments and we’d be happy to help.

Sunpower X21 Series Black Solar Panels in Australia
Sunpower X21 Series Black Solar Panels in Australia (source: sunpower.com)

Are black solar panels less efficient?

Solar cells can have polycrystalline cells, which have multiple crystals and appear blue, or monocrystalline cells, which are cut from one large crystal and appear much darker than the poly cells. The monocrystalline cells are more expensive and are the ones black solar panels are made out of. These solar panels are made when you use a black backing sheet instead of the conventional white and place the darker monocrystalline cells on it – the panel then appears black (or close enough).

This is, however, only to do with aesthetics – you won’t get any better performance from a black solar panel. In fact, ironically enough solar panel performance degrades the hotter the module gets, and the black backing sheet absorbs more heat – so you’d want to make sure black is super important to you! 

 

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Alexandra Canal transport depot solar+storage

The Alexandra Canal transport depot was officially opened by Sydney Lord mayor Clover Moore on Wednesday. It’s powered by 1,600 PV solar panels and also includes a Tesla Powerwall/Powerpack battery which has 500 kWh of energy. It represents the first time solar has been combined with large-scale energy storage in NSW – just like Tesla’s South Australia battery venture earlier this year. 

Alexandra Canal transport depot solar

Alexandra Canal transport depot  solar
Alexandra Canal transport depot solar (source: SMH.com.au / Supplied)

The Alexandra Canal transport depot will have the first government-installed Tesla battery for NSW – following suit from Victoria and South Australia who have already got similar setups. Lord mayor Moore took a look at the facility this week and had some high praise and explanation for the government’s future renewable plans:

“Growing the uptake of renewable energy is critical in combating the worst impacts of climate change,” Ms Moore said, adding:

“We’re working towards a target of 50 per cent of all electricity in the City of Sydney area to come from renewables by 2030.

“To help us achieve that target we’re covering the roofs of our properties with as many solar panels as possible. By mid-2021, we expect to have more than 7800 solar panels on the roofs of our properties. As the mix of storage and generation on our electricity grid changes, solar solutions like this could provide reliability and resilience to our electricity network and potentially prevent blackouts,”

The Tesla Powerpack batteries will be remotely managed by TransGrid and will be the first cab off the rank for a plan which will see Sydney install 1.5MW of battery storage on top of council buildings – with the goal of making their city 50% renewable in the short term. 

TransGrid boss Paul Italiano discussed the project with the Sydney Morning Herald:

“This initiative with the City of Sydney will afford the depot a significant amount of energy self-sufficiency while also sharing benefits with the wider community through the electricity network,” Mr Italiano said.

“By partnering with a site where this service is needed, we can support the City of Sydney’s renewable energy goals and reduce the cost of the council’s depot.”

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Hyundai Solar Panels coming to Australia

Hyundai solar panels will be available in Australia this year after inking a massive deal with a local solar company. The Korean company will look to sell to the commercial and residential sector and will also look to install large-scale solar projects here.

Hyundai Solar Panels in Australia

Hyundai Solar Panels - Green Energy
Hyundai Solar Panels – Green Energy (source: Hyundai)

Hyundai Heavy Industries Green Energy have signed an exclusive deal with Queensland solar distribution company Supply Partners. The deal has been valued at $70 million and will see Hyundai HI return to the Australian market since it exited in 2011. 

Larry Kim, the head of global sales for Hyundai Heavy Industries Green Energy, said the company’s sales targets are ambitious – planning to sell 20-30MW of panels this year, and 40-50MW in 2019. According to RenewEconomy, they were only up to 10MW of panels when they exited the market. It’s important to note that the solar landscape has changed considerably in the last 7 years and that 10MW worth of panels certainly doesn’t represent the ostensible failure the numbers provide in 2018 terms.

Kim said the focus of Hyundai will be squarely on the residential and commercial markets. 

“Nowadays, the Australian market is growing very fast in all markets, but residential and commercial are more stable,” Kim told RE in an interview.

He also discussed their plans with regards to energy storage and how they’re going to roll it out to Australia – given that we already have such a high solar panel installation rate it would seem logical to enter this market as well. 

“This is part of (our) long-term strategy,” he said.

“We are focusing on the Korean market for energy storage systems first,” he said. “After that, (we will look at) the Australia residential market.

“But not in the near future.”

We’ll be super interested to see how Hyundai’s re-entry into the Australian market goes and will be sure to update you as soon as we hear anything more about the move.

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Super fund ISPT rolls out rooftop solar.

Superannuation fund property investor ISPT is installing up to 59 rooftop solar properties Australia-wide as part of its $12b portfolio, cutting utility costs by $27 through a range of energy efficiency initiatives. Their National Solar Project is a four-stage initiative which aims to reduce the cost of baseload electricity and improve energy security for ISPT’s clients.

Stage 1 of ISPT Rooftop Solar Rollout

ISPT Rooftop PV Solar Installations (source: http://ispt.net.au)
ISPT Rooftop PV Solar Installations (source: http://ispt.net.au)

Alicia Maynard, ISPT’s GM for sustainability and technical services said on the ISPT website that “We conceived this project in 2016 following a national review of our key property assets in terms of the opportunity to install rooftop solar PV panels,”

According to the Australian Financial Review, stage one will involve the installation of solar panels in 13 buildings for a total of 13,000 square metres of renewable energy generation. ISPT have already finished construction of PV solar rooftop arrays in Perth (at 100 St Georges Terrace), in Canberra (at 18 Marcus Clarke Street and 7 London Circuit) and in Melbourne (at Central West Shopping Centre). 

Some of the upcoming projects will include:

  • 50 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
  • 477 Pitt Street, Sydney (Sydney Central)

“The solar PV rollout is about positioning our portfolio to be at the forefront of the move to clean energy, taking an industry-leading position that will deliver value for our tenants, dividends for our investors and better solutions for our environment,” said chief executive Daryl Browning.

In stage two another 20 properties will have solar installed – with a massive 45,000 square metres of solar panels planned to be installed. These solar initiatives mean that ISPT’s commercial property portfolio has been given a 4.8 star rating by the NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) energy efficiency scheme.

Commercial Solar Power in Australia

This is another example of commercial solar gaining traction as a way to diversify portfolios, add value to a property, and reduce exposure to rapidly rising electricity prices. Some examples of recent commercial solar include:

 

 

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Australian Renewable Energy Agency Solar Grants – 12 Plants Reach Financial Close in April

Australian Renewable Energy Agency
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have reached a significant solar milestone with their funding of PV plants in Australia. As of EOM April 2017 all 12 plants currently receiving grant funding from ARENA have reached a “financial close”. A financial close refers to the fact that all plants are fully financed with council and environmental approvals. They also have agreements in place with regards to grid connection, construction, and engineering. Nine of the plants have already begun construction and, when completed, the 12 plants will generate enough renewable energy to power 150,000 homes. All together, the 12 plants will generate 468.8MW of solar energy – and this doesn’t count at least six more plants being developed without any assistance from ARENA.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht noted that the total cost of plant production has decreased by 40% over the last three years. The amount of grant funding required to launch large-scale solar projects has also shrunk dramatically – from $1.60/watt three years ago to just 28c per watt in 2017. In addition to this, there are at least six PV plants in advanced stages of development that have received no funding, an indication that the industry has advanced to a level where it’s financially feasible to develop solar plants even without any government intervention and Australia is well on its way to reaching our 2020 renewable energy target (large-scale renewable energy generation of 33,000 GWh)

The 12 plants received a total of $92m in grants from ARENA – in addition to $1bn provided by private investment.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Funded Solar Plants

The Solar Plants ARENA have funded and their capacity:

  1. QLD – Kidston Solar Park, 50MW
  2. QLD – Longreach Solar Park, 15MW
  3. QLD – Collinsville Solar Power Station, 42MW
  4. QLD – Oakey Solar Farm, 25MW
  5. QLD – Darling Downs Solar Farm, 106.8MW
  6. QLD – Whitsunday Solar Farm, 52.8MW
  7. NSW – White Rock Solar Farm, 20MW
  8. NSW – Dubbo Solar Hub, 22.4MW
  9. NSW – Manildra Solar Farm, 42.4MW
  10. NSW – Parkes Solar Farm, 46MW
  11. NSW – Griffith Solar Farm (Neoen), 26.4MW
  12. WA – Emu Downs Solar Farm, 20.1MW

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Sydney Renewable Power Company builds 520kw PV Solar Array at Darling Harbour ICC

Sydney Renewable Power Company, chaired by fashionista Carla Zampatti’s daughter Allegra Spender and Andy Cavanagh-Downs, have raised $1.43m in funds from the public to fund a 520kw PV solar array on the roof of the brand new Darling Harbour International Convention Centre.

Shares were offered at $2,750 each and reached the target amount easily, with even the interested Zampatti missing out as Spender advised that ‘family goes last in that situation’.

Sydney Renewable Power Company
Sydney Renewable Power Company’s Darling Harbour ICC Solar Panels

Sydney Renewable Power Company

SRPC offered the public 519 shares in the project, which spans the size of 12 tennis courts and will sit on the top of the brand new $1.5b International Convention Centre, located at Darling Harbour. This offering was a great way for the public who want to invest in solar but don’t have the opportunity to do it at their residence. Cavanagh-Downs was quoted as telling The Fifth Estate:

“So many people in the community want to see a faster transition towards renewable energy generation than is currently occurring,” he said. “SRPC provides those individuals the opportunity to speed up this transition by allocating capital to the financing of such projects.”

Sydney CBD Suburban/Regional Shopping Centre Solar

When the construction of this rooftop solar array was approved in 2013, it represented the largest rooftop solar installation in Australia. The ICC project has since been overtaken (by over 200%) by the efforts of GPT in Darwin, where the Casuarina Square PV array boasts a 1.25MW (megawatt), 2030MWh p.a. (megawatt hours) size, enough to power 310 households. Stockland in Shellharbour  (1.2MW in Illawarra with 3991 PV panels, generating 4,789kWh per day) and Weatherill heights (925kW with 2,900 PV panels, generating 3,620 kWh per day) also have larger rooftop solar installations. It’ll be great to see what Stockland come up with next as they have shown themselves as being a market leader in creating environmentally friendly developments with a strong emphasis on solar.

CEO of Commercial Property at Stockland, John Scroder, was quoted to InsideRetail as saying “Our investment in sustainability initiatives like solar not only provide a number of environmental benefits but also new jobs and financial savings for our retailers.”.

 

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