Is Printed Solar technology the future of low-cost, sustainable energy?
The importance of low-cost energy can never be questioned – and from an early age, Paul Dastoor, Co-Founder of Kardinia Energy already understood this.
As a young Physics lecturer who had just arrived in Australia from Cambridge University more than 25 years ago, Professor Paul Dastoor was determined to work on research that could make a difference to the world: renewable energy generation.
Professor Dastoor was primarily motivated by the recent discovery of semiconducting polymers – organic materials that could be coated onto surfaces to build electronic devices. The problem was, as a young academic, he had no equipment and no way of funding any experiments. However, with boundless enthusiasm for Physics and burning passion in this new research area, he remains undeterred. So, together with a summer student who he managed to convince to work on the project, they set out to build their first organic solar cells.
They scavenged parts and built their first coating apparatus from an old motor and a set of power supplies from the teaching laboratory and started trying to create the thin films that were needed.
They set up a solar testing ‘facility’ (a light bulb and a multi-meter) in an old disused photographic darkroom in the Physics building.
It was a hot summer and Professor Dastoor vividly remembers the excitement of rushing into the lab late at night having had a call from the student that the cells were working – only to see a tiny flickering suggestion of a response from the meter or no response at all. Overall, they were unsuccessful as it became abundantly clear that building organic solar cells from scratch was incredibly difficult!
However, rather than becoming disheartened, the experience simply made them more determined to succeed and they continued working on the project for the subsequent year, with the help of generous funding and support from colleagues at another university.
"Printed Solar is a solution for generating energy. It has major advantages such as low cost, highly flexible, lightweight, 100% recyclable and works off-grid."
Twenty-five years and many stories later, Prof Dastoor and his team find themselves having developed every aspect of Printed Solar technology – from the fundamental science all the way to the installation of large-scale demonstrations. It is a journey that has only been made possible through the constant and enduring efforts of a passionate and committed team of scientists and engineers who have worked tirelessly together over decades to transform a vision into a reality.
Printed Solar and the Circular Economy
Printed Solar is a solution for generating energy. It has major advantages such as low cost, highly flexible, lightweight, 100% recyclable and works off-grid.
“We believe we will address the definition of energy usage within a circular economy,” said Prof Dastoor who is also currently a Professor of Physics at the University of Newcastle.
“We already have two proven commercial-scale Printed Solar pilot installations and are more advanced than most of our perceived competition within the ‘third generation’ of solar energy development. We will leverage our existing printing technology and processes to produce printed sheets (‘Printed Solar’)”
Currently, approximately 770 million of the world’s inhabitants (10%) do not have access to electricity, and 3 billion people (40%) do not have access to clean fuels for cooking.
Currently, approximately 770 million of the world’s inhabitants (10%) do not have access to electricity, and 3 billion people (40%) do not have access to clean fuels for cooking. Kardinia Energy believes that its technology, with its economic viability and scalability, is perfectly positioned to make a significant social impact on a global scale to help address this fundamental human need: access to energy.
A compelling alternative to solar panels (PV)
Kardinia Energy plans to begin commercial production in 2023 and the initial target market will be industrial, warehouse and commercial roofs in Australia. From there, it plans to continually expand into new geographies and applications.
It’s also important to note that Kardinia Energy’s Printed Solar will not compete directly with traditional silicon solar panels (PV) as according to Prof Dastoor, “this is not our target market.”
Printed Solar delivers a compelling alternative to PV in terms of weight, cost and recycling as it has been developed using organic photovoltaic materials (OPVM). Printed Solar weighs only 2% of existing PV technology.
A client site analysis conducted with a large listed industrial manufacturer in Australia comparing Printed Solar to grid energy and silicon solar panels confirms Printed Solar reduces annual electricity costs, has 50% advantage over the installed cost of silicon solar panels, quicker payback period on invested capital, 45% IRR, reduces carbon emissions and is the only energy solution for large scale installation on vacant low weight bearing industrial roofs. Talk about the many benefits of this technology!
In the next ten years, Kardinia Energy envisions a world where Printed Solar is managed by communities, for the community. A world in which Printed Solar provides sustainable energy that enables access to clean water in communities where there is limited or no other option.
An exciting future indeed, not only for Kardinia Energy, but for the world.
Image courtesy of Kardinia Energy.
Professor P.C. Dastoor, Professor of Physics, University of Newcastle, will be speaking at the upcoming Impact X Summit Sydney 2021: Climate growth and accelerating pathways to zero emissions. To register to attend the conference, click here.
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Kardinia Energy envisions a world where low-cost energy is accessible to all. That vision started with a journey that goes as far back as 25 years ago when a young Physics lecturer, Paul Dastoor, came...