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Art and energy solar artwork


The Project

Art and Energy CIC is a collective of artists trying to find a way to use their skills to respond to the climate emergency. Their vision is for city regions to have beautiful green technology that generates energy and also represents the unique culture of the place. They have been working with Plymouth College of Art to develop new approaches to building more creative solar PV projects, moving away from the traditional black rectangles which sit on our roofs. They hope that this work will lead to designers working with solar PV to enhance our spaces with sustainable energy installations that local people want to live with.

The Approach

In Collaboration with Fab Lab Plymouth, based at Plymouth College of Art, Art & Energy have researched a range of processes to effect the cutting, engraving and other mark marking on the glass photovoltaic panels. Ian Hankey, the lead technical researcher at the Fab Lab is a master glass craftsman with extensive experience gained from the Royal College of Art, Pilkington Glass and Teign Valley Glass, he has developed a range of mark marking processes using traditional glass processes and digital subtractive manufacturing suited to the photovoltaic panels. These panels were then tested by Dr Katie Shanks at the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter.

The Fab Lab team have also supported Art & Energy in developing the componentry to utilise the electrical output from the pieces, and are researching the use of bio resins in a possible replacement of glass for three dimensional objects.

The Results

The main concern of the research has been to not only develop processes that enable designers to incorporate solar panels into a wider range of environments, but to develop processes that do not have a detrimental impact on the efficiency of the solar panel. To this end Dr Katie Shanks and Ian Hankey undertook the testing of a range of marked panels, the results showed that some of the marking showed a drop of efficiency but some results achieved up to 106.8% efficiency, evidencing that some surface etch treatments actually increase efficiency.

Art & Energy have now brought solar panel artworks to the market and are currently working on a range of commissions, alongside running educational workshops focused on the solar panel marking and cutting processes.

The Team

Art & Energy

  • Chloe Uden, Director
  • Naomi Wright, Director

Impact Lab

  • Ben Mundy, Knowledge Exchange Coordinator, Plymouth College of Art
  • Ian Hankey, Lead Technical Researcher, Fab Lab Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art
  • Ben Wheeler, Technical Researcher, Fab Lab Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art
  • Dr Katie Shanks, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter