A new €1.8 million initiative to help develop and sustain employment in the economically important Solar Energy (photovoltaic or PV) sector has just been launched by a consortium of Higher Education Institutes, from Wales and Ireland. The ‘Wales Ireland Network for Innovative Photovoltaic Technologies’ (WIN-IPT) is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme 2007-13.
WIN-IPT, an industry-informed initiative designed to promote the development of innovation within the solar energy sector, is a collaborative initiative between Bangor University, Waterford Institute of Technology and Swansea University. WIN-IPT will create an inter-regional (West Wales and South-East Ireland) hub of solar energy expertise through knowledge transfer between higher education research institutes, industry and local authorities.
According to Dr Jeff Kettle, Principle Investigator for the School of Electronic Engineering, Bangor University; “The project brings together three HEIs with a proven track record of delivering commercially relevant research, which is underpinned by fundamental R&D in our respective labs. The sort of challenges that we are addressing cannot be completed by a single individual, so an inter-disciplinary team of chemists, device engineers, manufacturing specialists and industrial end-users has been brought together. In spite of the economic downturn, solar electricity generation across Europe actually increased by 70% between 2010 and 2011. The cost of solar power is continuously decreasing year-on-year, as the cost of oil and gas continues to rise.”
“In Wales, each metre squared of land receives an average 1050 kilo-Watt hours of sunshine a year, that could potentially be converted to electricity. If we could capture a small fraction of that using solar panels, we would need no other source of generation to meet all our energy needs. The types of solar cells we’re working with could provide a step-change to solar electricity generation across the region.”
Dr. Brian Murphy, Project Manager of the initiative said, “The Ireland-Wales region is home to some of the world’s most innovative companies involved in the development of solar energy technology, spanning the complete family of PV products from silicon to next generation Dye Sensitised Solar Cell (DSSC). The WIN-IPT initiative will deliver direct R&D assistance and consultancy services to SMEs in the solar energy sector in this region.”
A key strand of the initiative is to develop the next generation of solar cells/panels. Working with industrial partners on both sides of the Irish Sea, demonstration trails of new solar PV technologies are planned, including the installation of indoor energy harvesting technologies in flagship buildings in the South East of Ireland and Wales.
Publication date: 25 October 2012