Funding boost for Australian solar PV research

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has awarded $29.2 million for 20 research projects to propel the development of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology.

The funding has been offered to research teams from the University of New South Wales, Australian National University, Monash University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

ARENA’s third round of R&D funding supports early-stage research to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of solar PV, from creating flexible solar devices to making semi-transparent, high-efficiency solar cells for integrating into windows.

Most of the projects will focus on silicon technologies, as the vast majority of solar panels worldwide are currently made using silicon. Some projects will aim to develop solar cells using new materials, such as organic photovoltaics and perovskites, which would be lower cost to manufacture, printable or more sustainable.

Together with contributions from industry partners and leading institutions from Asia, Europe and the United States, total value of the projects is approximately $102 million.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Australian innovation was already built into many silicon solar panels made globally, and this funding would accelerate solar PV technology.

“Australia is leading the world in solar PV research and development. Over the past five years, ARENA has funded breakthroughs which have helped make solar PV competitive with wind power and we want to take that even further.

“In this funding round, the candidates and the calibre was so high, we actually increased the total funding we awarded to nearly $30 million,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This research will improve the technological and commercial readiness of new innovation in solar PV cells and modules, enhance Australia’s position as world-leaders in solar PV R&D and address Australian-specific conditions,” he said.

Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said: “The initiative is designed to not only enhance our world class research position, but also address conditions specific to our nation, where more than one in five households already have solar panels fitted.”

“It could lead several breakthroughs, ranging from the development of printable solar cells that can be easily rolled up and transported, to the integration of semi-transparent solar cells into windows.”

Other projects include:

  • setting new efficiency records for solar PV cells;
  • offering cheaper, greener and less toxic materials;
  • using new materials to reduce manufacturing costs;
  • the development of solar cells that rely on more abundant elements;
  • replacing high cost metals with low cost alternatives;
  • improving the quality of silicon material and therefore its lifespan; and
  • delivering new ways to rectify cell defects.

“All projects focus on efficiency and cost effectiveness – whether they be developing promising materials, improving manufacturing methods or scaling up new technology,” Minister Frydenberg said.

“By ensuring that we are technology ready, the commercial deployment of renewable technology in Australia will remain in the fast lane.”