Supergen Solar Network+

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Wolfson Sch of Mech, Elec & Manufac Eng


The primary objective of the SuperSolar Network is to maintain and improve an inclusive and co-ordinated network for the Photovoltaics (PV) research community in the UK. The Network will include all solar technologies from fundamental research through to module engineering and will champion the role of solar in the overall energy mix. The SuperSolar Network will achieve impact by reaching out to the wider community through its already substantial Associate and Network membership. It will work with the Supergen Hubs such as Energy Storage and Grid Net on areas of mutual interest. By including practitioners from all areas of solar energy, we will identify and support promising new areas of research using flexible funding.

Planned Impact

The UK has a large stake in the world-wide PV market. NSG-Pilkington exclusively supplies all fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO) coated glass to First Solar Inc. First Solar dominates the thin film PV market with ~3GW annual production of cadmuim telluride (CdTe) modules. This corresponds to 30 sq km of high value coated glass. First Solar will double production to 6GW with its new Series 6 modules.

The UK is a leader in early stage solar technologies. Research supported by EPSRC led to the discovery of perovskite solar cells at Oxford University. The record conversion efficiencies are already comparable with mc-silicon and CdTe cells. Perovskite cells are potentially the lowest cost technology because they are solution processable. The UK is well placed to exploit this breakthrough and Oxford Photovoltaics has raised more than £30 million to etablish a pilot line for perovskite/crystalline silicon tandem cells.

The UK is also a leader in organic PV. Eight19 Ltd, a Cambridge spin-out, has identified a market for indoor applications and is in production with roll to roll printing technology. UK Researchers are also improving CdTe devices (helpful to NSG-Pilkington) and are leaders in using computational chemistry to select new compounds for solar applications. It is important that the scientific infrastructure that led to these UK discoveries is maintained.

Intellectual Property: The flexible funding will generate intellectual property. Through our strong and existing Network membership, we will match new IP with industrial partners for exploitation. We will organize joint events with Venture Capital organisations.

Industry: The Solar Network+ inherits a network that includes all UK companies involved in the Solar industry. The adoption of SESSIG will further strengthen involvement with the industry. We will organise events to encourage academic/industry interaction; sometimes the majority of participants will come from UK companies. Collaborativeresearch between Network+ academic members and industry will continue to flourish, often enabled through Innovate UK projects.

The growth of Solar PV offers outstanding business opportunities. Some opportunities occur in cell and module production and UK companies such as Oxford PV, Eight19 and Big Solar are making headway. Other opportunities occur in coatings on glass (AR and TCO's), interconnects, laser sectioning, balance of systems, deposition technologies, anti-soiling coatings, aerial surveillance, battery storage etc. Maximising the number of industrial associates to the Network+ will be a priority. We will use flexible funding for 3 month secondments of academics into UK companies.

International Engagement: The Solar Network will continue to establish an internationally recognised UK Solar research identity. We will use flexible funding to assist early stage researchers to spend 3 months in a leading International laboratory such as NREL (United States) or Fraunhofer ISE (Germany) to accelerate research, access know-how and facilities, and learn from best practice.

Government Policy: The Solar Network+ includes involvement of Government agencies and policy makers. BEIS, KTN and UKERC are members of the Network+ Strategic Advisory Panel. The PI was a member of the DECC UK PV Strategy Group and Chair of its Innovation Task Force.

Outreach: The Network+ will develop of an active, connected academic and industrial PV community. The adoption of SESSIG and the Solar Fuels Network will increase our network base. The Network will hold about 10 events each year and continue to work with organizations such as the IOP, IEE, RIC and IMMM.

Training: We will provide training for new researchers in solar research methods. We will support the EPSRC CDT in New and Sustainable PV by training the PhD cohorts. Support will include free registrations at UK events and assistance to attend International conferences.


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