Here the wind blows, the hail pounds and the insurance quote for $20K of solar panels is 4 times the savings in electricity bought from the grid. Those realities cover a large swath of inhabited land – where the glass encased solar cell isn’t practical.

Durability is key to the widespread adoption of solar collection. It’s a great thing that there are deserts where huge thermal solar complexes can be built free from damaging wind and ice stones crashing down. So when the Brits at Corus Group, the UK company that is part of the huge Tatus Group of companies releases comments about nearly zeroing in on a paint process that would be significant in efficiency and hopefully in cost one gets very attentive.

Corus' Annealing Process

Corus Annealing Process

Corus’ spokesperson, Mr. Steve Fisher said, “If the solar cell paint can be successfully brought to the market, it could spell big changes when it comes to the future production of electricity.” Reports making the net are saying that in three years, buildings covered in steel sheets could be generating large amounts of solar electricity. It seems the technology is based in the dyes developed by Dyesol Ltd., of Queanbeyan NSW Australia. The Dyesol comments by Dr. Andrew King “The representatives from SmartCymru were very impressed with the depth and breadth of our presentations and with the rapid progress made. This is a result of the full commitment made by Dyesol over the past several months. Our team in the UK, supported by Dyesol in Australia and our Swiss subsidiary, Greatcell Solar, provide the group with the intellectual asset needed to bring this project to success.”

A laboratory being built to develop the new solar technology that replicates plant’s photosynthesis is due to start work on October 30th in Shotton, North Wales. Swansea University is leading the research together with Imperial College London and Bangor and Bath University. Researchers working at the PV Accelerator Laboratory in Shotton are aiming to develop a method of applying the solar paint to steel at a rate of 30 to 40 square meters per second.

The new solar cells also have the advantage of being able to absorb light from across the visible spectrum. That makes them more efficient at capturing low radiation light than conventional solar cells, and so well suited to the British climate with its many cloudy days.

Photovoltaic paint is made up of a layer of dye and a layer of electrolytes and can be applied as a liquid paste. The sheets of steel get four coats of solar paint, an undercoat, a layer of dye-sensitized solar cells, a layer of electrolyte or titanium dioxide as white paint pigment and, finally, a protective film. The paste is applied to steel sheets when they are passed through the rollers during the manufacturing process. These four layers of the solar cell system are built up one after the other in rapid succession.

Light hits the dye-sensitized solar cells, exciting the molecules that act as a light absorber or sensitizer. The excited molecules release an electron into the nanocrystalline titanium dioxide layer, which acts as an electron collector and a circuit. The electrons finally move back into the dye, attracted by positively charged iodide particles in a liquid electrolyte. The solar electricity that the area covered with paint generates is collected and provides power for whatever application it is connected to.

The problems remaining likely begin in the collection system. Steel is a conductor and would ground off any power collected making the collection of very low voltage but over large area a substantial amount of amperage the main challenge. The layout and connection of a set of solar cells necessitates they be laid out in units, hooked up in series to increase volts and fed out to the system’s main power out point. I would expect those issues to be the ones of prime concern.

Reports have it that in three years buildings covered in steel sheets could be generating large amounts of solar electricity. Maybe the reports are optimistic, I would be happy if they can get an 11% efficient steel shingle easily installed and hooked up to the dwelling or business at a very low cost.

If so, the chances are that hail and high wind areas could get photovoltaic panels. In the hail and hurricane zones steel shingles get preferred insurance rates. Properly installed, steel offers incredible benefits, and with power generation added in, they could be simply irresistible.


8 Comments so far

  1. Shaun Bowker on February 23, 2009 11:13 PM

    Think it’s a great advantage to be used in southern africa in rural area’s. Look forward to the end product.
    Cheers Shaun

  2. Solar Panels for the Rest of Us New Energy and Fuel | Shed Kits on May 26, 2009 10:32 PM

    […] Solar Panels for the Rest of Us New Energy and Fuel Posted by root 1 day 1 hour 2 minutes ago ( Oct 6 2008 a look at paint applied photovoltaic solar panel films on steel sheeting 1 comment so far shaun bowker on february 23 2009 11 13 pm Discuss  |  Bury |  News | solar panels for the rest of us new energy and fuel […]

  3. save money on October 24, 2010 5:40 AM

    There is now no reason not to install solar on our roof’s. Its easy and the panels are almost maintainence free. It makes financial sense in the UK, with the Feed In Tariff which makes its all the more justifiable.

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