Scaling up SunDrive’s advanced solar PV manufacturing

Man in protective lab gear stands behind Sundrive solar cell
Image: SunDrive

ARENA has announced $11 million in funding for Australian solar technology company SunDrive Solar to expand its novel solar cell metallisation technology from prototype scale (1.5MW/yr) to commercial capacity (>100MW/yr).

SunDrive has developed a cell metallisation technology that uses copper, a metal that is approximately one hundred times cheaper and one thousand times more abundant than commonly used silver.

Related article: SunDrive sets 26.07% efficiency record for HJT cell

Currently, silver accounts for approximately half the cost of converting a bare silicon wafer into a finished solar cell and solar manufacturing accounts for approximately 25% of the world’s annual industrial silver consumption. The use of copper instead could help the world to rapidly scale up solar manufacturing and support meeting net zero commitments.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said it was vital to support homegrown innovation to further reduce the cost of solar.

“To make ultra low-cost solar a reality, it is crucial that our scientists and researchers keep innovating and improving solar cells and module design. SunDrive’s technology that replaces silver with copper is a potential game changer and highlights why now is the time to invest in technologies for our future economic success.”

In addition to being more cost-effective and material abundant, SunDrive has also pushed the performance of its technology beyond that achievable with silver by creating the world’s most efficient commercial-sized solar cell. The technology also has environmental benefits as copper is easier to recycle and is less carbon intensive in the manufacturing process.

By combining these benefits, SunDrive is aiming to produce one of the world’s most advanced solar modules at an installed price that is 20-30% cheaper than other high efficiency solar modules on the market.

SunDrive plans to accelerate the development of its copper-plated solar PV technology to commercial-scale production capacity of >100+ MW/yr of metallised cells.

SunDrive co-founder and CEO Vince Allen said, “With ARENA’s continued support, SunDrive, an Australian founded company, has been able to compete with the world’s largest solar PV companies to produce the world’s most efficient commercial size solar cell.

Related article: ARENA spruiks huge potential of ultra low-cost solar

“To achieve net zero by 2050, we are going to need more advanced solar technologies. Today only 1% of the world’s energy comes from solar and current technology is already at its limit in terms of cost efficiency and material scalability, and the use of silver is behind all three of these. With SunDrive’s breakthrough copper technology, these roadblocks can be overcome unlocking a new generation of solar technology.”

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