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Power to the people: solar energy project gets £800,000 award to demonstrate how technology benefits developing countries

A Swansea-led project which will help communities in developing countries to generate their own solar power has been awarded £800,000 by the UK government. The money will be used to construct prototype buildings and support collaboration between experts from 5 countries: India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, South Africa, and the UK.

Solar energy is crucial in the shift towards clean, green power.  In just one hour enough solar energy falls on the earth to meet the energy needs of the entire world for a year.  

Most solar energy technologies to date have been manufactured from silicon, which requires a lot of money and energy to produce. Now, however, a new type of cell, called a perovskite solar cell, is proving to be an extremely promising way forward.  

The perovskite cell is cheap to produce, using widely-available materials.  It is flexible and can be printed directly onto a base. Recent laboratory studies have shown that the latest perovskite cells are highly efficient. 

The task now is to show that this technology can be manufactured and used effectively on actual buildings in developing countries. This is where the SUNRISE project and this new funding comes in.

The SUNRISE team already includes 12 partner universities in the UK and India. Now, thanks to this funding, they will be able to expand their work by:

  • Constructing two “demonstrator” buildings in India –  as with the “Active Buildings” on Swansea University campus, which generate, store and release their own power, the aim is to test the technology and show it works
  • Extending the network of experts to include researchers from Kazakhstan, Mexico and South Africa – they will spend a year at Swansea University learning from each other about how best to bring this technology to market

Dr Adrian Walters from the SUNRISE project said:

“Our research is about putting clean, affordable and reliable power into the hands of local communities. 

The funding means we can build not just expertise but actual buildings, which will show whether perovskite solar cells can be produced at commercially viable scale and cost.

If this goal is achieved, it will present a global opportunity to address climate change and pollution issues associated with conventional power generation”. 

This project has been funded as part of UKRI’s GCRF Innovation and Commercialisation Programme, developed to fast track promising research findings into real-world solutions. See the UKRI news item here.