at last … low cost solar power that works in the (Welsh) rain…

Excellent article in today’s Guardian reports on the innovative approaches being taken by G24 Innovations in Cardiff to revolutionise solar power panels.

This is just the innovation that the drive towards green, self generated energy for the built environment needs.

… those behind the Welsh operation think they may have made a crucial breakthrough. Their solar cell works in a different way from most, and is not based on silicon – the expensive raw material for conventional solar cells. G24 Innovations (G24i), the company making the new cells, says it can produce and sell them for about a fifth of the price of silicon-based versions. At present, it makes only small-scale chargers for equipment such as mobile phones and MP3 players. But it says larger panels could follow – large enough to replace polluting fossil fuels by generating electricity for large buildings.

and the applications could be wide ranging, with many safety related uses on building sites…

Design students have also been involved with the development process. Earlier this year, the company ran a competition with 45 product design students at St Martin’s college of art and design in London, who were asked to think up new uses for the Cardiff solar cells. The winning entries include portable safety lights mounted on life buoys, and lamps to mark scaffolding and hoardings around roadworks and on building sites. They also featured solar-powered security lights, fire exit signs, and window blinds, which could cut electricity use.

and addresses the social, global need for energy

The first commercial uses are likely to be in the developing world, where access to electricity is difficult. The firm is working with mobile phone companies including Nokia and Motorola to test whether the G24i cells could charge handsets in rural Africa. For £6-£8, he says, the company can supply a flexible strip of solar cells that can produce 0.4 to 0.5W of power. It’s a relatively meagre output, but more than enough for at least 10 minutes of phone calls a day. And that, says Betzel, can make a big difference. “Over two billion people live without access to energy. This isn’t about providing expensive, Rolls Royce- quality solutions. It’s about improving their quality of life.” Similar solar chargers made of silicon cost about £30.

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