For that all-over, no streaks PV look…

Items pertaining to the effects of the sun’s rays and spray-on application can often be found in the media: orange-tinged celebrities falling out of taxis between cocktail bars, largely.

Recently, the two themes appear to have come into vogue in relation to something with potential to be somewhat more beneficial to humanity – spray-on solar PV.

This seems to be the next frontier for PV. The Independent recently pointed to Mitsubishi’s work in this area; creating carbon compounds at less than 1mm think that can be applied like paint to buildings, vehicles, nigh-on anything with a surface.

But they’re not the only ones looking at spraying PV on thin. Business Green reports instead pointed to the work of Norwegian firm EnSol and scientists at the University of Leicester who’ve come up with their own variation on the theme. The article goes on:

The patented design uses metallic nanoparticles with diameters of approximately ten nanometres – much thinner than the width of a human hair.The researchers said the cells are so small that they can be painted or sprayed onto a surface, although they would slightly reduce the transparency of glass creating a tinted effect.

It’s all very well taking companies’ word for it, so I asked our resident microgeneration expert Ian Cuthbert what he thought. In summary:

  • They state “everyday surfaces such as windows and rood tiles could be used to generate energy…”  If true then this certainly has potential for the retrofit market
  • They may aim for 20% efficiency, but will they get there? That’s where the industry’s aiming now, so they’ll have to do too in order to compete
  • If efficiency is increased and it’s used on a much larger surface area than current panels, it would give a higher solar yield
  • Current PV systems are very easy to install – just mount brackets and attach. Will this be easy to apply?
  • Shading issues are still a concern; as is how this technology connects to its inverter

While spraying your solar cells onto your house/car/hat is certainly new, making solar as thin as is possible isn’t. The Universities of Melbourne and Padua are part of an international team-up looking into using nano-particles to make paper-thin panels. This kind of constant search for improvement of our renewable technologies is undoubtedly commendable.

But as if by way of vindication for green early-adopters who may see a move away from the traditional ‘look’ of panels as anathema, another international innovation combo, Siemens and Semprius Inc. have created the world’s most efficient solar panel at a whopping 33.9%.

Best of all for the traditionalists, it looks a lot like how you’d expect a solar panel to look i.e. it doesn’t come gas-propelled, and you’re not left constantly paranoid about that one spot on your house that isn’t covered evenly.