The Carbon Trust yesterday announced it is to invest £5m as part of a new research and development programme designed to make solar photovoltaic (pv) cells cost effective within the next decade.
The project, which will be run by the University of Cambridge and technology development firm The Technology Partnership, aims to improve the efficiency and manufacturing processes for organic solar PV technologies – a potentially highly efficient and light weight variety of solar cell that relies on organic dyes to absorb light.
"We believe this exciting new organic PV technology is our best shot at dramatically reducing the cost of solar PV to the point that, in the next ten years, it could become as cheap as the power currently delivered to our homes," said Tom Delay, chief executive of The Carbon Trust. "It is because the carbon savings and commercial potential for this technology are so vast that we have acted now to take a good, but expensive idea and turn it into a cost effective, easily available reality."
While advocates of solar power argue that it represents the largest available renewable energy source, the high cost of manufacturing and installing solar panels has stifled the market's development. Some firms that have installed solar panels have complained that they have had to replace the panels just as they have begun to cover their initial investment.
The main focus of the new research will be on improving the cost effectiveness of the technology by attaining five percent conversion efficiency levels, extending the lifetime for panels to over five years, and developing cheaper manufacturing processes.
The development of sheets of PV film, made from a polymer base, will also extend the number of potential sites for solar panels, making it easier for firms to install the technology on roofs and even windows.
The Carbon Trust said the project should also help bolster the UK's position in the global solar energy market and add further impetus to the alternative energy hub currently developing around the Cambridge area.
Sir Richard Friend, Cavendish Professor of Physics in the University of Cambridge, welcomed the investment claiming it would help "capitalise on the local Cambridge strengths in taking science to manufacturing."
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