UK cleantech firm MTI Partners has announced an investment of £2 million (AUD$3.04 million) in Oxford Photovoltaics Ltd. (OPV), a leader in the development of dye-sensitised solar cell technology.
Dye-sensitised solar cells (also known as Grätzel cells after inventor, Michael Grätzel) are a thin-film technology whereby solar-sensitive materials are printed or sprayed onto surfaces such as glass or ceramic tiles, offering the potential for entire building facades to become solar collectors.
Though considered a promising alternative to traditional forms of solar technology in that the product uses cheap organic compounds, so far dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC’s) have not come anywhere close to matching efficiency levels of silicon-based solar panels.
However, since its formation in 2010 as a spin-out company from Oxford University, OPV have published results in the journal Science showing its new Meso-Superstructured Solar Cell (MSSC) technology promises “to provide the lowest cost-performance photovoltaic solution on the market,” with efficiencies of around 11 percent.
While this efficiency level is still far below standard solar panels – for example, a REC Peak Energy module has an efficiency of 15.8% – given MSSC’s intended application; it’s an exciting prospect.
OPV was last year chosen as one of the UK’s 16 most promising green energy companies and visited Silicon Valley as part of Clean and Cool Mission 2012.
The key to OPV’s market success, according to CEO Kevin Arthur, lies in commercialising transparent solar cells for the Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) industry, which the company says could be worth US$6.4 billion by 2016.
“This new class of solar cells will deliver a massively scaleable product firstly for BIPV market and, as energy conversion performance improves further, for other high volume PV applications. Ultimately we envisage this technology competing directly with grid delivered electricity.”
The investment from MTI Partners means the company can begin construction of its product testing and manufacture site at Begbroke Science Park near Oxford.
“Our new product development facility at Begbroke will incorporate state of the art printing techniques to enable us to manufacture larger modules and begin the technology transfer of our new, high efficiency MSSC technology,” Arthur says.