Government pledges $45m towards “ultra low cost” solar

Solar panel render with sunlight (ultra low cost)
Image: Shutterstock

The federal government has committed $45 million in funding to help accelerate the push to “ultra low cost” solar technologies, led by the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP).

The funding, delivered via the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), aims to extend the operations of ACAP’s solar research to 2030 as it develops the next generation of solar technologies.

Led by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, ACAP includes research groups at CSIRO, Australian National University, University of Melbourne,University of Queensland, University of Sydney and Monash University.

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The organisation was established roughly a decade ago to provide an institutional framework for a coordinated, national approach to solar research, with an eye to “over the horizon” PV technology targeting increased performance and ongoing cost reduction.

More recently, ACAP’s research program has become aligned with ARENA’s Solar 30 30 30 goal—to improve solar PV cell efficiency to 30 per cent and reduce the cost of installation of solar modules to 30 cents a watt by 2030.

Federal climate and energy minister Chris Bowen said the $45 million funding towards ultra low cost solar was “a proud Labor legacy” that built on the more than $83 million in agency funding allocated to ACAP since 2013.

“Initial funding of ACAP and the great work they do was one of ARENA’s first big investments, and the Albanese government is proud to lock further funding in for this decade to ensure they remain a world leader in solar research and innovation,” Bowen said.

“Today, 90 per cent of the world’s solar panels are made using technology developed by a UNSW team led by Professor Martin Green,” he added.

Green welcomed the new injection of funds, saying the coming decade promised to be the most exciting and important, yet, for the development of solar PV, thanks to huge uptake and rapid technological change.

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“With ARENA’s support, we will continue our world class technology development including more efficient and powerful cell technologies, and growing a sustainable solar sector at scale,” Green said.

Already, ACAP has a strong record of industry partnerships, fostering the spin-out of Australian companies including Open Instruments, Solar Vision, Solar Cycle and SunDrive, and partnering with leading innovators including 5B, Sun Cable, Bluescope and Raygen.

The latest round of funds will mean ACAP can facilitate a minimum graduation of 30 honours students, 10 masters students and 25 PhD students every year to 2030; employ 18 postdoctoral research fellows a year across the eight research institutes; and provide a comprehensive domestic and international knowledge sharing program.