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Researchers stress need to go solar

Published: 27 June 2008

Two final-year MEng students at ECS have predicted that by 2014 solar cell electricity generation will be cheaper than conventional fossil fuel methods.

Sean Nuzum and Tim Davey, who both studied for the MEng in Electronic Engineering at the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), based their final year projects on solar energy. Their work was supervised by Professor Darren Bagnall of the ECS Nano research group.

In a research project entitled 'Solar technology: Emerging markets and global economic forecasting, when should you go solar?', Sean predicts that due to the rate at which gas and electricity prices are soaring, and the rate at which photovoltaics is decreasing, it will be cheaper to use solar cells by 2014.

In order to make these cells more efficient than electricity, Tim proposes using devices based on amorphous silicon and develops a case for this in his research project entitled 'High efficiency a-Si thin-film multi-junction solar cells for the commercial market'.

'Silicon is plentiful and much less toxic than other materials used to make thin film solar cells,' he says, 'and can be deposited as thin film and stacked in such a way as to trap light, which increases the cells' efficiency possibly resulting in a cell which is 12 per cent efficient.’

Both researchers believe that it is time for consumers to think seriously about installing solar panels.

Sean believes that the most common argument against using them is the initial capital outlay needed. He said: 'The average system today in 2008 costs approximately £3,000 including grants, with a payback time of just six years, and this period will reduce significantly over the coming decade.

'The future is certainly bright for the photovoltaics industry and the time is right to go solar.'

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