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A £4.4 million solar energy project led by Glyndŵr University could create more than 50 new jobs and provide a significant breakthrough in bringing affordable renewable energy to thousands of homes.
The university's Centre for Solar Energy Research (CSER) will develop new photovoltaic (PV) solar cells which are optimised for collecting solar energy from weather conditions in Wales as part of the Solar Photovoltaic Academic Research Consortium Cymru (SPARC Cymru).
Researchers at the centre in St Asaph, north Wales, will be collaborating with scientists from Bangor and Swansea universities to complete the three year project which has been part-funded by the EU's Convergence European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government.
It is estimated that PV solar cells will provide 20 per cent of the electricity needs of Wales by 2050, however, uptake of the technology has so far been slow - due to prohibitively high costs and the fact that the cells aren't yet tailored to gaining maximum efficiency from solar energy in countries with temperate climates, such as Wales.
The research will develop new technologies and innovations which tackle both of these challenges, with jobs being created through the research itself, as well as the supply chain and commercial enterprises which benefit from increased take-up of solar cells.
Professor Stuart Irvine, Director of CSER, said: "This is very much a collaborative project, with our expertise in solar energy being combined with the electronics technology expertise of Swansea University in improving efficiency when converting the energy into electricity which can be used on the National Grid.
"The project also combines our thin film technology with innovative dye sensitised solar cells with researchers at Bangor and Swansea Universities".
"We have world class facilities in St Asaph with the capability to see everything through from initial research to the production of small thin film solar cell modules.
"We're currently operating with cells of 5cm square but the aim is to get up to test modules of 30cm square - taking us much closer to a size of solar cell which can be used commercially to provide the future electricity needs of Wales."
Announcement of the SPARC project comes as the Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI), a pan Wales group tasked with shaping the future of energy research in Wales, recently held its annual conference in Cardiff.
The LCRI, which is led by Cardiff University and includes partners Glyndwr, Bangor, Swansea, Glamorgan and Aberystwyth universities, was recently awarded £15.3 million from the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) to enable Wales to lead the way in helping to cut carbon emissions. The total LCRI project is valued at £34m.
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