University develops power producing roof tiles

A lab at Western Sydney University has developed roof tiles with integrated solar panels using a 3D printing process designed to be readily adopted by current tile manufacturers.

According to results at the Centre for Infrastructure Engineering, the solar roof tiles can produce 19 per cent more electricity, than conventional solar panels. The benefit is due to the solar cells heating up less than conventional solar panels, as the tiles can absorb the heat energy more effectively.

As commercial and residential buildings consume 40 per cent of energy globally, integrated sustainable energy generation into their construction can work towards making buildings carbon-neutral.

While that figure is lower in Australia, standing at roughly 20 per cent of all energy consumptions, the large amount of sunshine that beats down on Australian roofs makes the country a hothouse for solar energy effectiveness.

According to the team of researchers at Western Sydney University, the barriers to the adoption of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) in Australia are a result of the lack of understanding. These are manifest in a lack of knowledge about technology, unknown changes to building microclimates, and resistance towards renewable energy. Adoption of these technologies is at roughly zero in Australia, compared to 2.5 per cent worldwide.

What will be required for Australia to break into this market, estimated to grow to 13 per cent of the global PV market by 2022, will be industrial manufacturing processes. The researchers at Western Sydney University utilise a 3D printing facility, which could be adopted by existing tile manufacturing processes.