3-D Printing Solar Could Revolutionize Renewable Energy

Scientists and engineers continue to find creative ways to generate cheaper options for solar power. One promising new technique is 3-D printing solar cells. The 3-D printing process has the potential to pave the way for a revolution in solar power generation, reducing costs, improving efficiency and removing barriers to the adoption of residential PV systems.

3-D printing solar changing the game

As noted by Greener Ideal, solar panel efficiency and cost are two of the biggest obstacles to bringing this clean, renewable energy source to the mass market. While expenses have dropped in the past few years as efficiency has risen, the upfront cost for installing a residential solar system may still make some homeowners skeptical, despite the long-term savings gained from lowered electricity bills after installing a solar system.

Thankfully, scientists have developed a way to boost efficiency while lowering the cost of solar panels. The development, advancement and adoption of 3-D printing technology has opened the door for using this process to print solar cells. This technique involves a large industrial printer creating a long film or roll of solar cells that is flexible and easily shippable. While this method is largely confined to companies with industrial 3-D printing capacity, it's not a stretch to see how these low-cost and high-efficiency factors could quickly make this technology more easily available to the average homeowner.

From cars to homes to manufacturing components and everything in between, 3-D printing technology is bringing the production of nearly everything to the masses, and the solar industry is taking note. Ohio University listed both 3-D printing and alternative energy as two of the six industries primed for significant growth in the near future. This suggests the point where these two sectors overlap should see tremendous investment and innovation.

The many benefits of 3-D printing solar

The 3-D solar cell-printing process a less expensive method for creating solar panels. By bringing down the cost, this makes the technology easier to produce. Some estimates project a drop in price of 50 percent after eliminating the costs of expensive materials such as glass and polysilicon, and eliminating pricey overhead for shipping such fragile products.

3-D printed solar panels are also much more efficient than traditional modules. According to 3Dprint.com, British scientists at the National Physical Laboratory recently 3-D printed solar cells that actually perform better during cloudy conditions.

Another benefit 3-D printing solar panels may offer people is the ability to create customizable solar panels from the comforts of their own home. While the technology for individual production is still somewhat limited, the potential for 3-D printing solar could provide a way for just about anyone to become a self-sufficient energy producer.

Even though solar manufacturers continue to push the boundaries on solar panels through innovative 3-D printing techniques, there's still no reason for homeowners or commercial end users to wait on installing a solar panel on their houses or businesses. No matter how much the technology evolves, the sooner someone installs a solar PV system - no matter the process by which the panel is constructed - the quicker they'll start saving money on their utility bills.