The £1m project is part of a wider £16m investment by the EPSRC announced today by the department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The Supergen scheme, involving 19 universities, includes three £5m energy research hubs, as well as the solar energy network, that will also build working relationships between academics and the renewables industry.
The SuperSolar Network, which includes 10 universities, will be led by Professor Michael Walls, of Loughborough’s Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST).
He said: “The solar network will provide an open knowledge exchange facility, maintaining and improving the coordinated network for the photovoltaics research community in the UK.
“It will include all solar technologies from fundamental research through to module engineering, champion the role of solar in the overall energy mix and engage all stakeholders in industry, government and finance.
“Including practitioners from all areas of solar energy, the network will identify and support promising new areas of research and reach out into the wider community.
“Using flexible funding it will assist early stage researchers to work in leading international laboratories where they can access world-class know-how and facilities, learn from best practice and accelerate the impact of their research.”
One of the photovoltaic (solar panel) test labs at CREST
Since 2012, Prof Walls has acted as the Director of the EPSRC Supergen SuperSolar Hub.
The Supergen programme was set up in 2001 to deliver sustained and coordinated research on Sustainable PowER GENeration and supply, focusing on eight key research areas: bioenergy; energy networks; energy storage; fuel cells; hydrogen and other vectors; marine, wave and tidal; solar technology; and wind power.
The other energy hubs announced today are:
- Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Hub led by Professor Deborah Greaves, Plymouth University
- Supergen Bioenergy Hub, to be led by Professor Patricia Thornley, Aston University
- Supergen Energy Networks Hub, to be led by Professor Phil Taylor, Newcastle University
Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, said: “As we move towards a low carbon future we need to explore the fundamental science that can spark new technologies and systems as well as linking researchers to industry to meet their needs.
“As the threats from climate change become ever-more apparent there is a pressing need for the UK, and the world, to act collaboratively to address the challenges of clean energy production, distribution and storage.”
Loughborough’s Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) is an EPSRC supported facility which provides accredited measurements for UK Universities and industry and is one of only nine such centres around the world.
CREST has over 1200 m2 of laboratories dedicated to the research of solar cell devices and solar energy systems.
The laboratory is comprehensively equipped to fabricate and fully characterise novel photovoltaic devices.
CREST has also established a battery of facilities available for testing durability and for determining degradation mechanisms at cell and module level.
The Network Management Board includes representatives from other centres of excellence in photovoltaics research from the Universities of Bath, Cambridge, Imperial College, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea and Warwick.