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Bangor University is a member of the SPARC II consortium, a WEFO funded project to develop new themes in solar/photovoltaic (PV) energy research, comprising of experts from Bangor, Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities.

The research will seek added value solutions to these technology challenges that will provide new manufacturing and supply opportunities for Welsh industry. Bangor University is leading a work package focusing on reliability analysis, outdoor performance monitoring and developing new materials for solar energy applications.

Whilst new generations of PV technologies offer promises of lower energy production and possibilities to integrate into novel products such as for indoor energy harvesting and building integrated applications, the stability remains a critical issue for commercialisation. Bangor University will use material analysis techniques to study causes of failure and use accelerated testing to predict stability in the future. For undertaking such work, Bangor University has a suite of testing equipment and reliability software dedicated for studying reliability and performance of solar cells.

By 2020, several European Directives promoting renewable energy expect that the EU produces 20% of its energy consumption from renewables and aims to develop nearly Zero Energy Buildings for new builds. Therefore, other projects are focused around developing building integrated PVs (BIPVs). This include European projects such as the European STEELPV project (RFSR-CT-2014-00014) which includes partners from Spain, Germany, UK and Italy. The project is led by Fundacion ITMA and aims to make low cost steel compatible as direct substrates for thin film photovoltaic devices, through the development of intermediate layers using non-vacuum and vacuum strategies.

Bangor University has developed an approach whereby ‘rough’ steel substrates can be made compatible with PV production by planarising the surfaces and ensuring electrical isolation between the PV and the substrate. At the end of the STEELPV project, a portfolio of value added steel products will be ready for sectors such as building envelopes for new and existing buildings, road infrastructures and transport. These new solutions could be integrated for the building envelope (façades and roofs) of both new and retrofitted buildings and are suitable for the residential and industrial building market. Finally, other sectors such as road infrastructures and transports could take advantages of these developments.

Bangor University is working with SPECIFIC in Swansea University and the Institute of energy at Cardiff University as part of the Sêr Cymru Engineering Research Network Wales. This project involves studying the use of perovskite absorber material for applications in solar energy.

Bangor University also works closely with UK industry, in particular in the area of concentrated PV (CPV). Funding from InnovateUK is being used to study how large concentrator optics can be used to focus light up to 1000x onto a small semiconductor solar cell (typically less than 1 cm²). Challenges in removing heat from such samples with such high light intensities are being investigated. Furthermore support from local companies such as UPS2 ltd (based in St Asaph) has funded a PhD student to develop manufacturing equipment for fabrication of optical components in PVs.