Irish solar cell start-up SolarPrint and Ireland’s Tyndall National Institute are just two of the industry and university partners from across the EU that are participating in a €25.7m FTP-funded European research project, ‘Energy for a Green Society’ (ERG) which aims to increase solar power use around the area of wireless sensor networks.
Other companies and universities participating in the solar project are from Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, the Netherlands, UK, Spain and Belgium. However, Italy has the most partners involved in the project.
The three-year ENIAC (European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council) programme aims to achieve advances in the solar energy supply chain – from sustainable harvesting to smart distribution. The ultimate aim is to achieve commercial applications around wireless sensor networks, especially in the smart buildings space.
Technological challenges to meeting climate targets
Speaking today, an ERG representative pointed to the need for “exponential growth” in solar energy production, as required by Europe’s 2020 climate targets and general energy policies, which creates "formidable" technological challenges.
The ERG programme is aiming to address these requirements by improving the efficiency of solar cells, devising innovative harvesting techniques, reducing power-conversion losses, and enhancing energy-management strategies.
Innovating solar cells
In the first stage, European researchers will focus on the design and development of innovative solar cells, exploring novel architectures, approaches and materials.
One of the ERG’s objectives is to demonstrate commercially viable applications of printable dye-sensitised solar cells that the partners believe represent a promising low-cost alternative to silicon solutions.
In the next phase, the project partners will seek ways to optimise the use of energy generated by the photovoltaic (PV) systems, concentrating on power-management electronics for silicon cell panels and micro-electro-mechanical systems for concentrated photovoltaic cells.
Techniques will be explored that track the maximum power point to boost output from solar arrays and improve power-conversion efficiency at the module and segment levels.
ERG will also generate behavioural models for individual components of the smart grid that it says could enable the development of optimal energy-dispatching and battery-charging algorithms based on inputs from wireless sensor nodes distributed across the network.
It said “innovative” solutions will be devised that optimise local smart grids in terms of power management and co-generation, power consumption and overall efficiency, with real-time energy metering and billing control.
“This broad initiative sets to contribute to the establishment of a solid electronics design base for Europe and help create a set of technology standards for the solar-energy sector,” said the project co-ordinator Dr Francesco Gennaro, IMS Systems Lab & TM Power Conversion staff engineer, STMicroelectronics.
“Our goal is to achieve improvements along the whole supply chain, pushing the solar-cell efficiency towards 25pc, reducing power conversion losses by 20pc, and exceeding 90pc efficiency for the overall grid.”
The project partners are:
Applied Materials Italia – Italy
Boschman Technologies – The Netherlands
Chemnitz University of Technology – Germany
Compel Electronics – Italy
Enecsys – UK
Fraunhofer Gesellschaft – Germany
Infineon Technologies – Germany
Italian University NanoElectronics Consortium (IUNET)
LEITAT – Spain
National Research Council (CNR) – Italy
NXP Semiconductors – the Netherlands
ON Semiconductor – Belgium
Politecnico di Torino – Italy
RWTH Aachen University – Germany
Sincrotrone Trieste – Italy
Slovak University of Technology Bratislava – Slovakia
SMA Solar Technology – Germany
SolarPrint – Ireland
STMicroelectronics, Italy – project co-ordinator
Telefunken Semiconductors – Germany
Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork – Ireland
University of Bologna – Italy
University of Calabria – Italy
University of Catania – Italy
University of Sheffield – UK
The ‘Energy for a Green Society’ project is organised into a number of work packages, spanning 36 months. The total cost of the project is €25.7m, partially funded through a combination of European and national grants, under the rule of ENIAC-JU 2010.
Ireland in the solar-tech spotlight
SolarPrint, which was set up in 2008 by Dr Mazhar Bari, Andre Fernon and Roy Horgan, is developing next-generation energy technologies that convert light from any source to energy. The company develops dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC), a third-generation printable solar-cell technology.
SolarPrint recently took to the podium at ID Tech Ex in Boston, sharing its views on solar technology with speakers from companies such as Philips, Analog Devices, Ford Motor Company, Sharp, InStep NanoPower, Volvo Technology; US entities such as the National Institute of Aerospace, the Naval Research Laboratory; plus representatives from MIT, Princeton, University of Iowa, and Imperial College London.
Tyndall National Institute, based at University College Cork, is pioneering research into wireless sensory networks and also has a vast energy research division that covers areas such as solar power, building energy management and energy harvesting.