Swansea University has been working with steel companies for years. These companies produce those marvelously beautiful sheets of steel that cover buildings all over the world. But, while working on ways to make the steel not degrade in sunlight, a Swansea student figured out how to make the paint actually harness that energy and covert it to electricity.
The University has announced that with the 100 million square feet of steel that they produce could add 4,500 gigawatts to the grid annually. To that, I say "whoops...you seem to have made a typo," because I'm pretty sure they mean 4,500 gigawatt-hours.
But that is still an enormous number. 4,500 gigawatts is about a third of the generating capacity of the entire world...so I think it's safe to assume that every single publication (and there are lots) running this story has overlooked a pretty glaring typo.
The steel would be "painted' with the solar cells in the factory, hopefully at a rate no slower than current paints are applied. The research has spawned a $3M grant and has been expanded to include several universities including Bangor University, University of Bath, and the Imperial College London.
The technology remains lab-bound for now. But the scientists working on the project hope to have 5% efficient solar steel paint in the relatively near future. But two questions remain...will it be worth redesigning the electricity grid to accept and pay for power from such small providers? And will the added cost of the solar "panels" and a DC to AC inverter prohibit the technology.
See the original press release (complete with glaring typo) at Swansea University
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