The price of solar cells has been dropping as the technology gets better and better. However, the price of rooftop solar panels is still too high for many people to consider purchasing them. A new printable solar panel may dramatically reduce the price of rooftop solar installations.
The University of Newcastle in Australia is testing solar cell technology which makes use of electronic ink printed on a super thin plastic sheet to conduct electricity. Researchers at the university say that the panels are less than one-tenth of a millimeter in thickness and that the sheets can be mass produced quite easily, says Paul Dastoor, professor at Newcastle and head of the project.
“It’s completely different from a traditional solar cell. They tend to be large, heavy, encased in glass — tens of millimetres thick,” Dastoor explains. “We’re printing them on plastic film that’s less than 0.1 of a millimetre thick.”
The printed panels are made out of robust PET, which is the same material used to create Coke bottles. They’re also recyclable, so they can simply be melted down and reformed. Furthermore, the printer-friendly solar panels even outperform traditional solar panels in low light.
As the technology is continually improved upon, prices for the panels may eventually cost as little as eight dollar per square meter of solar film, according to Dastoor. By contrast, Tesla’s new solar shingles cost around $235 per square meter.
The tiles are currently undergoing extensive testing for durability and efficiency.
“We expect in a short period of time the energy we generate will be cheaper than that generated via coal-based fire stations,” says Dastoor.