Ever the corporate chameleon, GE is investing in renewable energy. The corporate giant announced this week its plans for a $600 million investment in the US solar industry. The company plans to build a factory (location to be announced in the next three months) which will produce thin-film solar panels. The factory will employ 400 people and will produce enough panels to power 80 000 homes every year.
The brainiacs at Oxford are making screen printed organic solar cells. These printed cells use non-toxic materials that are readily available, so they have a smaller carbon footprint. This new kind of thin film technology can be applied directly to glass and can be up to 50% cheaper. The panels come in different colours, so instead of putting a solar power system on your roof, you could have a beautiful stained glass window that produces energy.
Not to be outdone, researchers from MIT are printing solar panels onto flexible materials, including toilet paper. Unless the sun does actually shine out of your unmentionables, it is unlikely that toilet paper will be added to solar arrays. It does, however, highlight the versatility of new techniques which may see users printing solar cells on their own office printers.