Installing solar panels on the roof of every new building in the world would go a long way towards solving our energy needs, but as we all know, solar panels are costly and often difficult to install. But what if the solar panel was an integral part of every building? What if solar cells could be painted on building products? Well, according to a team from Swansea University this type of technology will soon be coming to a hardware store near you.

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The Swansea Solar Paint project is led by Dave Worsley, who, together with his team, were researching ways to make make steel last longer. By chance that they started to focus on the degradation of paints in steel surfaces, when they realized that their research could lead them to develop a new way of getting energy from the sun.

The idea is to coat every piece of steel cladding with a solar cell paint. As steel is passed through the rollers multiple coatings of of the solar cell system are applied to it. Based on the preliminary research, the materials that are being applied are suited to capturing low level solar radiation, which means that they should work just as well in areas where the sun doesn’t directly shine on them.

It’s not the first project which aims to develop paint that can convert solar energy into electricity, longtime readers will probably remember this project, from a few months ago. What is interesting about this one, is that the process, if successful, can be scaled massively and quickly. Think about the possibilities of having every roof clad with a durable, electricity-generating steel finish!

If the Solar Paint project gets off the ground, it is expected that they would be able to press around 30 to 40m2 a minute. This may not sound like much, but put it into perspective: according to Dr. Worsley, if all the steel cladding produced by just one manufacturer was produced to be energy generating, at a very conservative energy exchange rate of 5%, it would be the equivalent of 50 wind farms, or roughly 4,500 gigawatts of electricity, per year. If you ask us, this is a project that might be worth looking into.

+ Colorful idea sparks renewable electricity from paint @ Swansea University

+ Paint on Solar Panels on Inhabitat 2007