On May 25th 2017, the U.S notified the WTO and its 164 countries that it may place safeguard tariffs on imported solar cells. From 2012 the U.S. produced market share of solar cells declined from 21% to 11% despite 4B in growth in the U.S. market.  The potential for emergency tariffs may cause US solar panel sellers to look at alternative supply resources including solar cell 3D printers.  Experimenting with new solar 3D printers is supported by R&D tax credits. 3D printing is capable of producing paper thin solar panels that are flexible and as durable as standard glass solar panels. The lighter weight paneling reduces the cost of transportation and installation while looking more appealing than the glass panel counterpart. With significantly reduced costs of solar paneling due to 3D printing, home and business owners have an opportunity to achieve less expensive means of green energy.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • New or improved products, processes, or software
  • Technological in nature
  • Elimination of uncertainty
  • Process of experimentation

Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.

3D Printing Solar Advantages

3D printed panels can capture up to 20% more sunlight and be produced for 50% of current cost, according to Energydigital.com. 3D printing solar cells allows consumers and businesses to fully design and customize their solar panels precisely and quickly.

Blue Phoenix Solutions of Israel

John Licata chief strategist at Blue Phoenix has demonstrated new high tech uses in solar energy such as 3D printing. Blue Phoenix has developed new portable and flexible technology that comes at a reduced per watt cost less expensive than standard production by using 3D printing.

Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) partnered with University of Melbourne, Australia

VICOSC brings industry and academics together as they are partnered with the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Innovia Films/Security and Robert Bosch SEA Pte Ltd. VICOSC has 3D printable solar panels in the final stages of being ready for commercial production. VICOSC will print their panels to be used for low power applications such as personal electronics but have the capability to power entire buildings on their panels at 10-50 watts per square meter.

InfinityPV of Denmark

InfinityPV allows consumers to purchase their organic solar cells that are 3D printed and can be cut and connected by the purchaser with full customization available at a less expensive cost. They offer solar Tapes, Foils and Panels all customizable to be small or large scale at the discretion of the purchaser. Roll-to-Roll printing methods imply that entire rolls of solar cells can be produced and particular cuts of solar cells are available upon request. Using Roll-to-Roll printing and machinery, custom designs become cheaper and more precise. The manufacturing process allows for agile and cost-effective benefits for production at small and large volumes.

University of Toronto

The University of Toronto, Canada has cleared numerous manufacturing obstacles to develop low cost solar panels by using 3D printing. The University has manufactured light sensitive materials that can be turned into an ink like form to be printed onto glass, plastic or other materials used to attract sunlight at 30% higher efficiency. Their solar panels are capable of turning different surfaces into a source of electric power.

Conclusion

The evolution of 3D printing is enabling more businesses and consumers to discover more ways to be energy efficient and cost effective. Customization and modification of 3D printed solar cells has become more popular as the cost is declining and quality is increasing.


Ryan Donley and Charles Goulding of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing and solar panels.

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