Cheaper energy bills and new materials for BlueScope Steel’s domestic market will be by-products of research conducted at the University of Wollongong.
UOW scientists and BlueScope have joined forces with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, one of the world’s leading renewable energy and sustainable building research organisations, in the new solar technology research and demonstration project.
The work is supported by a $477,000 grant from the Australian Solar Institute, awarded to BlueScope as the driver of the project.
Professor Paul Cooper, director of UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC), based at the Innovation Campus, said the research aimed to provide cheaper solar electricity while assisting in thermal heating and cooling.
He said the focus would be on developing solar cells, or building integrated photovoltaic thermal configurations, which could be integrated into a roof’s profile and were less obtrusive than solar panels.
‘‘Warm air generated in winter is used for heating, and as heat is radiated from the cells on summer nights, cool air is then supplied to the building, increasing overall energy efficiency,’’ Prof Cooper said.
The new system would be tested in the laboratory before it was demonstrated on the roof of the SBRC building, which is under construction, and older buildings in the Illawarra, in line with the retrofitting focus.
Prof Cooper said the system would not eliminate power bills altogether, but it would substantially reduce the outlay.
Once the research was developed, BlueScope Research would integrate the system into its roofing profiles for supply to the domestic market.
‘‘This is really about developing new product for BlueScope Steel’s downstream building market,’’ Prof Cooper said.‘‘It’s an integrated solution that’s applied to an existing building to provide an excellent roof and a power supply and thermal heating.’’