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The new report by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) predicts that a range of different fabrics and materials can all be made into solar panels using technologies that use electricity from the sun.
In its most recent report on the technology, published last month, ARENA said the range of materials available now would allow panels to be manufactured at scales that are cheaper and more durable than today’s solar panels.
The ARENA report suggests that by 2050 the world could be producing solar panels from about 1,000,000 tonnes of cotton, or 1,400,000 kilograms of silk or 3,000 kilogrammes of jersey fabric.
“The most important challenge facing the solar PV industry is to make the technologies that make the most of the available materials to make them competitive in the marketplace,” ARENA chief executive, Robyn King, said.
“We believe we have identified some promising materials, which could lead to the introduction of new solar PV systems in the near future.”
The report also suggests that if we wanted to use the new materials to produce panels for solar farms, we would need to start with cotton, because of its low cost.
“A number of recent reports have suggested that a large portion of the costs of the manufacturing of solar PV modules is associated with the fabrication of the cotton fibre,” the report said.
In addition to the cost of producing the cotton, it said that the fabric also has a high melting point, which makes it difficult to melt.
However, the report says that although the cost may be higher than the cost for making solar panels on a conventional factory site, it would be cheaper to use these materials for the panels than it would to use them for the manufacturing.
ARENA says the cost per kilogram of fabric is comparable to those of solar panels already in use, which is an important consideration given that the vast majority of solar installations in the world are currently powered by wind and solar thermal systems.
The report said it would cost $1.50 per kilowatt-hour to produce a kilogram, which equates to about 3 cents per watt, while the cost to manufacture a kilowatts-worth of solar panel would be $3.50.
“Given that a typical wind turbine uses about 40 kilograms of energy per year, the total cost of a kilawatt-hours worth of solar modules to manufacture is about $7 per kilawatts of solar energy,” it said.
The Australian Renewed Energy Agency has been pushing the solar panel industry for years.
The industry has a range to produce the panels, and ARENA’s latest report says it has identified the technology that could make the best use of this technology.
“This report outlines a range from the low-cost fabrication of lightweight, flexible and lightweight fabrics to the high-end fabrication of highly-efficient solar cells, which are the basis of the world’s first photovoltaic modules,” it says.
The new technologies could also be used to make solar panels for the production of batteries, for use in electric vehicles and other power sources, as well as for industrial and industrial-scale solar power.
The technology to produce solar panels by fabricating cotton could be developed in parallel to the use of solar cells.
The use of cotton fabric for panels would also be possible if it were made from a variety of other materials, including polymers, which can be produced by combining different materials.
“It is not only about the technology itself but the application of it in the manufacturing process that would be most interesting,” Mr King said.
This is a very exciting time in the solar energy sector, he said.