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A new study carried out by the University of Liverpool has made a breakthrough which drastically alters the way in which solar panels are made.
Researchers found that solar cells can be produced using magnesium chloride (a salt found in sea water, used to make tofu and control ice on roads) instead of the much more costly and toxic cadmium cells, which are currently being used.
The discovery should enable the production of cheaper and safer solar panels and could consequently lead to much higher adoption rate across the UK.
Discovery will help solar take over from fossil fuels
During an interview with the Independent, Jon Major, who led research at the University of Liverpool, said it was only a matter of time before solar was cheaper than using fossil fuels, but added this development “is going to get us there quicker”.
“We’ve managed to replace a highly expensive, toxic material with one that’s completely benign and low cost,” added Major.
Speaking on the discovery, Chairman of the renewable energy firm Solarcentury, Jeremy Leggett said the development would help solar energy compete against fossil fuels.
“Costs are coming down so fast that they are already knocking the business models of utilities into what some analysts call a ‘death spiral’. Imagine, then, what will happen if developments such as the one described in the new research come to market,” he said.
Britain breaks solar power record
The news comes as both Britain and Germany have produced record amounts of solar energy in the past weeks. At its peak, on 21 June, solar energy was generating 7.8% of the UK’s electricity.
Speaking to the Guardian, Ray Noble, consultant at the UK National Solar Centre, said: “Britain has virtually doubled its capacity in the last year, with 80,000 more installations, including several thousand larger scale commercial ones.
“There are now 530,000 installations in the UK, of which 510,000 are domestic small scale ones. Last weekend we estimate they generated about 8% of daytime electricity in total.”
Noble added that he was hopeful the number of installations would double by next year. These figures could be boosted even further by technological advances such as those