Featured image: SunDrive cell. Image courtesy of ARENA
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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has awarded $11 million in funding to SunDrive Solar for the expansion of its novel solar cell metallisation technology from prototype scale to commercial capacity.

SunDrive has developed a cell metallisation technology that uses copper, a metal that is approximately 100 times cheaper and 1000 times more abundant than commonly used silver.

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 per cent 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.

In addition to being more cost-effective and material abundant, SunDrive has also pushed the performance of its technology 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 per cent cheaper than other high efficiency solar modules on the market.

The solar company also 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 has previously received $3 million in ARENA funding to demonstrate its copper metallisation technology to the prototype scale of 1.5MW per year.

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.

“To achieve net zero by 2050, we are going to need more advanced solar technologies. Today only one per cent 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.

With ARENA’s backing, SunDrive is proud to be at the forefront of Australian solar innovation and demonstrating the immense potential of a domestic advanced solar manufacturing industry to make Australia into a renewable energy manufacturing superpower.

“It’s exciting to see SunDrive take the next step towards market entry. ARENA has supported the company for a number of years now and we’re delighted to continue our support to see Sundrive become a key player in our emissions reduction aims,” Mr Allen said. 

Featured image: SunDrive cell. Image courtesy of ARENA

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