Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced, on behalf of the Federal Government, it will award 13 research projects funding to support research and development (R&D) and commercialisation activities that aims to significantly reduce the cost of solar.
The $41.5 million in funding for ultra low-cost solar R&D will build on ARENA’s previous investment into solar PV and is supporting projects that align with ARENA’s ‘Solar 30 30 30’ target.
ARENA has championed ultra low-cost solar and set a target of ‘Solar 30 30 30’ to improve solar cell efficiency to 30 per cent and reduce the total cost of construction of utility scale solar farms to 30 cents per watt by 2030.
To support this ambitious timeframe, funding has also been made available to focus on commercialisation prospects, which will take place after each project’s core R&D phase, to assist getting the new technologies into the market.
ARENA initially opened for applications in February 2022 and increased the funding allocated by a further $1.5 million due to the strength of the applications that have the potential to reduce the levelised cost of solar PV and improve cell and module efficiency across two streams.
The funding has been awarded to researchers from three Australian universities; The University of New South Wales (UNSW), The Australian National University (ANU) and The University of Sydney (USYD).
Prof Bram Hoex, Professor and Deputy Head of School (Research) at the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Engineering UNSW Sydney, said he was humbled by the strong support from ARENA for the broad range of projects put forward in close consultation with UNSW’s domestic and international industry and academic partners for this R&D round.
‘’ARENA’s ‘Solar 30 30 30’ target is perfectly aligned with our mission to accelerate the worldwide development and adaptation of renewable energy,” Mr Hoex said.
“This funding will allow us to continue to be in the driver’s seat of technology development and commercialisation with an increased focus on utility-scale solar, and so driving down emissions and growing the Australian economy at the same time.”
Stream one focuses on cells and modules, building on Australia’s leading track record of R&D and innovation in solar cells and modules, totalling in $27.5 million in funding.
Under the stream one category:
- UNSW received a total of $17,751,373 across five projects
- ANU received a total of $7,010,828 across two projects
- USYD received $2,783,525 for one project
Stream two targets the balance of systems, operations and maintenance, seeking to broaden the approach to accelerate innovation that can drive down the upfront and ongoing costs of utility scale solar PV in the field, totalling in $14 million in funding.
Under the stream two category:
- UNSW received a total of $11,615,327 across four projects
- ANU received $2,350,604 for one project
Professor Anita Ho-Baillie, the John Hooke Chair of Nanoscience in the University of Sydney’s School of Physics and Sydney Nano Hub, said, “Thanks to the support of ARENA, we are thrilled to be able to work with SunDrive to accelerate the development of perovskite-silicon tandems for commercialisation.”
Ultra low-cost solar will be a key input into ARENA’s strategic priorities for scaling up the production of low-cost renewable hydrogen and unlocking decarbonisation pathways for heavy industry including low emission materials such as green steel and aluminium.
ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said, “Australia’s solar researchers have helped to make solar PV the cheapest form of energy in history, but to create a future in which Australian solar energy supplies the world with clean power, fuels and products, we need to be ambitious and drive the cost of solar even lower.
“ARENA is supporting these universities with $41.5 million in funding to get behind the target of ‘Solar 30 30 30’ to deliver ultra low-cost solar, helping to optimise Australia’s transition to renewable electricity and achieve our emissions reduction targets.”
Since 2012, ARENA, through its R&D programs, has committed $118.5 million in grant funding to 145 solar PV projects with 17 institutions. In addition to this, ARENA has also supported the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) with $128.99 million in funding over 18 years up until 2030.